Blood flow index as an indicator of successful sciatic nerve block: a prospective observational study using laser speckle contrast imaging

Br J Anaesth. 2018 Oct;121(4):859-866. doi: 10.1016/j.bja.2018.05.065. Epub 2018 Jul 4.


Background: Laser speckle contrast imaging allows real-time, non-invasive, quantitative measurements of regional blood flow. The objectives of this prospective observational study were to use laser speckle contrast imaging to evaluate blood flow changes after sciatic nerve block, and to determine whether this novel optical technique can evaluate block success.

Methods: This observational study included 63 adult patients undergoing elective lower limb surgery with sciatic nerve block. Blood flow images and blood flow index (BFI) values of toes were recorded using laser speckle contrast imaging 5 min before nerve block and at 5 min intervals until 30 min after sciatic block. The sensitivity, specificity, and cut-off value of laser speckle contrast imaging for predicting successful sciatic block were determined by receiver operator characteristic (ROC) curve analysis.

Results: The BFI values of toes were significantly increased at each time point after successful sciatic block, compared with the baseline value obtained 5 min before nerve block; in failed sciatic block, there were no significant differences. For successful sciatic block, the highest increase of BFI value was at the big toe. BFI increase of the big toe at 10 min after sciatic block has great potential as an indicator of block success. The area under the ROC curve was 0.954 at a cut-off value of 8.48 perfusion units (PU) with a sensitivity of 89% and a specificity of 100%.

Conclusions: Laser speckle contrast imaging might be an early, objective, quantitative, and reliable indicator of successful sciatic block. BFI increase of the big toe not reaching 8.48 PU within 10 min after sciatic block indicates block failure.

Clinical trial registration: NCT03169517.

Keywords: lasers; nerve block; regional blood flow; ultrasonography.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lasers
  • Lower Extremity / blood supply
  • Lower Extremity / surgery
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Block / methods*
  • Perfusion
  • Prospective Studies
  • Regional Blood Flow
  • Sciatic Nerve / blood supply*
  • Sciatic Nerve / diagnostic imaging*
  • Toes / blood supply
  • Young Adult

Associated data