Reasons for performing study: Evidence-based information is limited on distribution of local anaesthetic solution following perineural analgesia of the palmar (Pa) and palmar metacarpal (PaM) nerves in the distal aspect of the metacarpal (Mc) region (‘low 4-point nerve block’).
Objectives: To demonstrate the potential distribution of local anaesthetic solution after a low 4-point nerve block using a radiographic contrast model.
Methods: A radiodense contrast medium was injected subcutaneously over the medial or the lateral Pa nerve at the junction of the proximal three-quarters and distal quarter of the Mc region (Pa injection) and over the ipsilateral PaM nerve immediately distal to the distal aspect of the second or fourth Mc bones (PaM injection) in both forelimbs of 10 mature horses free from lameness. Radiographs were obtained 0, 10 and 20 min after injection and analysed subjectively and objectively. Methylene blue and a radiodense contrast medium were injected in 20 cadaver limbs using the same techniques. Radiographs were obtained and the limbs dissected.
Results: After 31/40 (77.5%) Pa injections, the pattern of the contrast medium suggested distribution in the neurovascular bundle. There was significant proximal diffusion with time, but the main contrast medium patch never progressed proximal to the mid-Mc region. The radiological appearance of 2 limbs suggested that contrast medium was present in the digital flexor tendon sheath (DFTS). After PaM injections, the contrast medium was distributed diffusely around the injection site in the majority of the limbs. In cadaver limbs, after Pa injections, the contrast medium and the dye were distributed in the neurovascular bundle in 8/20 (40%) limbs and in the DFTS in 6/20 (30%) of limbs. After PaM injections, the contrast and dye were distributed diffusely around the injection site in 9/20 (45%) limbs and showed diffuse and tubular distribution in 11/20 (55%) limbs.
Conclusions and potential relevance: Proximal diffusion of local anaesthetic solution after a low 4-point nerve block is unlikely to be responsible for decreasing lameness caused by pain in the proximal Mc region. The DFTS may be penetrated inadvertently when performing a low 4-point nerve block.