Background: We have had favourable experience with a triple injection technique, combining an axillary catheter technique with a transarterial axillary block. This method has been used successfully for routine surgery and re-implantation of fingers, hand or forearm. We hypothesized that with this technique, block onset time and effectiveness are better than with a conventional catheter technique, and designed a study comparing this new technique with a conventional single injection through a catheter.
Methods: Fifty-one adult patients were included in a prospective study. In all patients, a short axillary plexus catheter was positioned close to the median nerve. All patients had an injection through the catheter, while 26 of the patients had an additional injection behind, and in front of, the axillary artery. Sensory and motor block were tested continuously every minute for 29 min. Block success was recorded as onset time to analgesia, anaesthesia and complete motor block in the first 29 min. At 30 and 50 min, an analgesia block score was recorded.
Results: The transarterial injection plus catheter method was more effective, with a higher success rate and faster onset, than the catheter method. Readiness for surgery with analgesia in the median, radial and ulnar nerves was achieved in the catheter group in 13 patients (52%) at a mean time of 20.8 min, and in the combined group in 21 patients (81%) at a mean time of 13.3 min (P < 0.05, P < 0.05). At 50 min the situation was 17 (68%) and 24 (92%), respectively (P < 0.05).
Conclusion: The combined triple injection is faster and more effective than the catheter method alone.