Article Title

Regional anaesthesia for bilateral upper limb surgery: A review of challenges and solutions

Abstract

Regional anaesthesia for bilateral upper limb surgery can be challenging, yet surgeons are becoming increasingly interested in performing bilateral procedures at the same operation. Anaesthetists have traditionally avoided bilateral brachial plexus block due to concerns about local anaesthetic toxicity, phrenic nerve block and pneumothorax. We discuss these three concerns and review whether advances in ultrasound guidance and nerve catheter techniques should make us reconsider our options. A search of Medline and EMBASE from 1966 to January 2009 was conducted using multiple search terms to identify techniques of providing anaesthesia or analgesia for bilateral upper limb surgery and potential side-effects. Ultrasound imaging and nerve catheter techniques have led to a reduction in dose requirements for effective blocks without side-effects. Effective regional anaesthesia can be performed for bilateral surgery while remaining within recommended safe dose limits. Spacing blocks apart in time can further reduce potential toxicity issues, such that peak absorption rates for each block do not coincide. Since phrenic nerve block remains an issue even with low doses of local anaesthesia, bilateral interscalene blocks are still not recommended. Peripheral nerve blocks have excellent safety profiles and are ideal for ultrasound guidance. Regional anaesthesia can be a suitable option for bilateral upper limb surgery.

Keywords

peer-reviewed, regional anaesthesia techniques, local anaesthetic, peripheral nerve block, brachial plexus, ultrasound