Background: Upper extremity surgery is commonly performed in the ambulatory setting and is associated with moderate to severe postoperative pain.
Methods: Patients scheduled for upper extremity orthopedic surgery with a peripheral nerve block were randomized to receive either an ultrasound-guided single-injection supraclavicular block or ultrasound-guided median, ulnar, and radial nerve blocks (forearm blocks) performed at the level of the mid to proximal forearm with liposomal bupivacaine (Exparel) combined with a short-acting supraclavicular block. A sham block was performed in an attempt to blind enrollees in the control group. We administered the EuroQol 5D-5L questionnaire preoperatively and on postoperative days 1-3 and considered the results the primary outcome of our investigation. Block procedure times, postanesthesia care unit (PACU) length of stay, instances of nausea/vomiting, need for narcotic administration, and patient satisfaction were also assessed.
Results: We observed no significant differences in postoperative EuroQol scores between the 2 groups and no significant differences in patient demographics, PACU length of stay, or side effects in the PACU. In some instances, the short-acting supraclavicular block resolved in the PACU, and these patients reported higher pain scores and required titration of analgesics prior to discharge.
Conclusion: Larger prospective studies are needed to determine the safety and efficacy of liposomal bupivacaine in patients undergoing upper extremity surgery. Liposomal bupivacaine is currently only approved for local anesthetic infiltration use.
Keywords: Anesthetics–local; brachial plexus block; nerve block; orthopedics; pain–postoperative; ulnar nerve.