Safety and acceptability of suprascapular nerve block in rheumatology patients

Clin Rheumatol. 2012 Jan;31(1):145-9. doi: 10.1007/s10067-011-1813-3. Epub 2011 Jul 20.


Suprascapular nerve block (SSNB) is a popular treatment for shoulder pain. To date, studies undertaken mainly describe the methods of performing the technique or are trials examining its efficacy. As a result, the numbers of blocks reported are small and therefore confidence in the safety of the procedure must be limited. Furthermore, although most studies report pain reduction using visual analogue scales, there are no reports of patient satisfaction with the subsequent pain relief. This study aimed (1) to determine the safety of SSNB in a population of patients presenting in rheumatology practice and (2) to determine the patient satisfaction with the pain relief. From 2003 to 2009, 1,005 SSNBs were undertaken by rheumatologists in several centres in South Australia. All patients who had at least one SSNB performed were identified. Case notes were examined and patients were contacted to identify any side effects from the procedure. Patients were also asked to report their satisfaction with the pain relief. Of the 1,005 nerve blocks performed, there were a total of six side effects. They were three episodes of transient dizziness, two episodes of transient arm weakness and one episode of facial flushing. There were no serious side effects reported. Patient satisfaction with the pain relief was high, with over 80% of respondents being satisfied or very satisfied with the result. SSNB is a very safe procedure in the outpatient setting, even among frail, elderly patients. Patients rate the satisfaction with the pain relief highly.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anesthetics, Local / adverse effects*
  • Bupivacaine / adverse effects*
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Block / adverse effects*
  • Pain Management*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Shoulder Joint / drug effects
  • Shoulder Joint / physiopathology
  • Shoulder Pain / drug therapy*
  • Shoulder Pain / etiology
  • Shoulder Pain / physiopathology
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Bupivacaine