Background: Despite the use of various treatment strategies arthroscopic knee surgery is still associated with clinically important postoperative pain. As the infrapatellar nerve (IPN) innervates vital anterior knee structures we decided to investigate the feasibility of a novel ultrasound-guided IPN block technique as a potential therapeutic option for out-patient arthroscopic knee surgery.
Methods: The IPN was blocked under ultrasonographic guidance in 10 adult volunteers using 5 ml of levobupivacaine 5 mg ml(-1). Success rate, time to maximum cutaneous distribution of the block, distribution of cutaneous analgesia and time until full recovery of cutaneous sensation was noted as was the incidence of concomitant blockade of the saphenous nerve (SN).
Results: The IPN was successfully blocked in 9/10 subjects. However, a varying degree of concomitant SN block was observed as part of all blocks. The time to maximum cutaneous distribution of the block was 8.4 (sd 3.6) min and the duration until complete recovery of cutaneous sensation was 27.5 (19.1) h.
Conclusion: Reliable blockade of the IPN can be achieved with ultrasonographic guidance. Because of the very close anatomical relationship between the IPN and the SN it appears inevitable to also get a variable degree of concomitant SN block. The duration of the IPN block was in the majority of subjects greater than 16 h, a finding that may make this block useful for postoperative analgesia in out-patient arthroscopic surgery.