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Evidence Basis for Ultrasound-Guided Block Characteristics: Onset, Quality, and Duration
  1. Spencer S. Liu, MD,
  2. Justin Ngeow, BA and
  3. Raymond S. John, BA
  1. From the Departments of Anesthesiology, Hospital for Special Surgery, and the Weill College of Medicine of Cornell University, New York, NY.
  1. Address correspondence to: Spencer S. Liu, MD, Department of Anesthesiology, Hospital for Special Surgery, 535 E 70th St, New York, NY 10021 (e-mail: liusp{at}


Background and Objectives: This systematic review summarizes existing evidence for superior onset, quality, and duration of block for ultrasound (US) guidance versus other techniques for nerve localization.

Methods: MEDLINE was systematically searched from 1966 to September 2009 for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing US guidance to another technique for peripheral nerve blocks.

Results: Sixteen RCTs were identified for upper-extremity peripheral nerve blocks and 8 for lower extremity. Jadad scores for quality of RCT ranged from 1 to 5, with a median of 2. For upper-extremity blocks, 9 (60%) of 15 RCTs reported faster onset of block, 4 (25%) of 16 reported better quality of block, and 1 (17%) of 6 reported longer duration of block with US. Only 1 RCT reported that US was inferior in any outcome. For lower-extremity blocks, 5 (71%) of 7 RCTs reported faster onset, 5 (63%) of 8 reported better quality, and none of 3 RCTs reported longer duration of blocks. No RCTs reported that US was inferior in any outcome.

Conclusions: There is level 1b evidence to make a grade A recommendation that US guidance provides a modest improvement in block onset and quality of peripheral nerve blocks. Ultrasound is rarely inferior to other techniques.

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  • No external funding was received for this study.