The effect of stimulating versus conventional perineural catheters on postoperative analgesia following ultrasound-guided femoral nerve localization

J Clin Anesth. 2011 Dec;23(8):626-31. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinane.2011.04.006.


Study objective: To test the hypothesis that, if the femoral nerve is correctly localized using ultrasound (US) guidance, the type of perineural catheter used has no effect on catheter success.

Design: Randomized controlled trial.

Setting: Post-anesthesia care unit of an academic teaching hospital.

Patients: 40 ASA physical status 1, 2, and 3 patients, ages 55-85 years, undergoing elective total knee arthroplasty.

Interventions: All patients received postoperative continuous femoral nerve blocks and a single injection sciatic nerve block. Nerve localization was accomplished using US guidance and electrical nerve stimulation so that the needle tip was visualized deep to the femoral nerve. Patients were randomized to receive either stimulating (Group SC) or nonstimulating catheters (Group NSC) in the usual manner for each device. Catheters were bolused with ropivacaine and an infusion commenced.

Measurements: The primary outcome was quality of analgesia (as measured by a numerical rating scale). Other outcomes included sensory block success rate, number of attempts and time required to localize the needle tip correctly, number of attempts and time required to place the perineural catheter, amount of local anesthetic and opioid use postoperatively, and degree of completion of preset postoperative rehabilitation goals.

Main results: Quality of analgesia was similar at all time intervals. Rates of successful femoral block (95% vs 80%; P = 0.34) were similar between groups. Time required to position the catheter was greater in Group SC than Group NSC (3.45 ± 2.05 min vs 1.72 ± 0.88 min; P < 0.01).

Conclusions: Ultrasound guidance for needle localization prior to catheter insertion for femoral nerve block results in similar block characteristics between stimulating and nonstimulating catheters. The use of nonstimulating catheters avoids the technical challenges of stimulating catheters and does not require additional helpers.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Amides / administration & dosage*
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Anesthetics, Local / administration & dosage
  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Knee / methods
  • Catheterization / methods*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Female
  • Femoral Nerve / diagnostic imaging
  • Hospitals, Teaching
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Block / methods*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain, Postoperative / prevention & control
  • Ropivacaine
  • Sciatic Nerve / diagnostic imaging
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ultrasonography, Interventional / methods*


  • Amides
  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Ropivacaine