This study compared the effectiveness of 0.5% ropivacaine and 0.5% bupivacaine for brachial plexus block. Forty-eight patients received a subclavian perivascular brachial plexus block for upper-extremity surgery. One group (n = 24) received ropivacaine 0.5% (175 mg) and a second group (n = 24) received bupivacaine 0.5% (175 mg), both without epinephrine. Onset times for analgesia and anesthesia in each of the C5 through T1 brachial plexus dermatomes did not differ significantly between groups. Duration of analgesia and anesthesia was long (mean duration of analgesia, 13-14 h; mean duration of anesthesia, 9-11 h) and also did not differ significantly between groups. Motor block was profound, with shoulder paralysis as well as hand paresis developing in all of the patients in both groups. Two patients in each group required supplemental blocks before surgery. Ropivacaine 0.5% and bupivacaine 0.5% appeared equally effective in providing brachial plexus anesthesia.