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Adductor canal block techniques do not lead to involvement of sciatic nerve branches: a radiological cadaveric study
  1. Pascal SH Smulders1,
  2. Werner ten Hoope2,
  3. Holger M Baumann1,
  4. Jeroen Hermanides1,
  5. Robert Hemke3,
  6. Ludo F M Beenen3,
  7. Roelof-Jan Oostra4,
  8. Peter Marhofer5,
  9. Philipp Lirk6 and
  10. Markus W Hollmann1
  1. 1 Department of Anesthesiology, Amsterdam UMC Location AMC, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  2. 2 Department of Anesthesiology, Rijnstate Hospital, Arnhem, The Netherlands
  3. 3 Department of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, Amsterdam UMC Location AMC, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  4. 4 Department of Medical Biology, Amsterdam UMC Location AMC, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  5. 5 Department of Anesthesiology, Intensive Care Medicine and Pain Medicine, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
  6. 6 Department of Anesthesiology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jeroen Hermanides, Amsterdam UMC Location AMC, Meibergdreef 9, 1105 AZ, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; j.hermanides{at}


Introduction Low and high volume mid-thigh (ie, distal femoral triangle) and distal adductor canal block approaches are frequently applied for knee surgical procedures. Although these techniques aim to contain the injectate within the adductor canal, spillage into the popliteal fossa has been reported. While in theory this could improve analgesia, it might also result in motor blockade due to coverage of motor branches of the sciatic nerve. This radiological cadaveric study, therefore, investigated the incidence of coverage of sciatic nerve divisions after various adductor canal block techniques.

Methods Eighteen fresh, unfrozen and unembalmed human cadavers were randomized to receive ultrasound-guided distal femoral triangle or distal adductor canal injections, with 2 mL or 30 mL injectate volume, on both sides (36 blocks in total). The injectate was a 1:10 dilution of contrast medium in local anesthetic. Injectate spread was assessed using whole-body CT with reconstructions in axial, sagittal and coronal planes.

Results No coverage of the sciatic nerve or its main divisions was found. The contrast mixture spread to the popliteal fossa in three of 36 nerve blocks. Contrast reached the saphenous nerve after all injections, whereas the femoral nerve was always spared.

Conclusions Adductor canal block techniques are unlikely, even when using larger volumes, to block the sciatic nerve, or its main branches. Furthermore, injectate reached the popliteal fossa in a small minority of cases, yet if a clinical analgesic effect is achieved by this mechanism is still unknown.

  • analgesia
  • Nerve Block
  • Pain, Postoperative

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

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Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

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  • Contributors Study conception and design: PSHS, WtH, HMB, JH, LFMB, RO, PL and MWH. Acquisition of data: PSHS, WtH, HMB, RH, LFMB and PL. Analysis and interpretation: PSHS, WtH, HMB, JH, RH, LFMB, PM, PL and MWH. Drafting: PSHS and WtH. Revising: PSHS, WtH, HMB, JH, RH, LFMB, RO, PM, PL and MWH. All authors gave approval for publication of the manuscript. Guarantor: JH.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.