Suprascapular nerve block for postoperative pain relief in arthroscopic shoulder surgery: a new modality?

Authors: Ritchie ED, Tong D, Chung F, Norris AM, Miniaci A, Vairavanathan SD.

References: Anesth Analg. 1997 Jun;84(6):1306-12.

Arthroscopic shoulder surgery has a 45% incidence of severe postoperative pain. Opiates and interscalene nerve blocks have a high incidence of side effects, and intraarticular local anesthetic has been shown to be ineffective when used for postoperative pain relief. The suprascapular nerve supplies 70% of the sensory nerve supply to the shoulder joint, and local anesthetic block of this nerve is effective in certain shoulder pain disorders. To determine the efficacy of a suprascapular nerve block, subcutaneous saline was compared with a suprascapular nerve block using 10mL of 0.5% bupivacaine with 1:200,000 epinephrine before general anesthesia was induced. In the immediate postoperative period, a 51% reduction in demand and a 31% reduction in consumption of morphine delivered by a patient-controlled analgesic system was demonstrated. There was more than fivefold reduction in the incidence of nausea, as well as reduced visual analog and verbal pain scores for patients who received a suprascapular nerve block. The duration of hospital stay was reduced by 24% in the suprascapular nerve block group. A 24-h phone call interview revealed a 40% reduction in analgesic consumption and a reduction in verbal pain scores at rest and on abduction. There were no complications from the suprascapular nerve block. This study demonstrates that a suprascapular nerve block for pain relief in arthroscopic shoulder surgery is an effective and safe modality of postoperative pain relief.


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