Outcomes of Ambulatory Upper Extremity Surgery Patients Discharged Home with Perineural Catheters from a Veterans Health Administration Medical Center

Pain Med. 2019 Nov 1;20(11):2256-2262. doi: 10.1093/pm/pnz023.


Objective: The feasibility and safety of managing ambulatory continuous peripheral nerve blocks (CPNB) in Veterans Health Administration (VHA) patients are currently unknown. We aimed to characterize the outcomes of a large VHA cohort of ambulatory upper extremity surgery patients discharged with CPNB and identify differences, if any, between catheter types.

Methods: With institutional review board approval, we reviewed data for consecutive patients from a single VHA hospital who had received ambulatory CPNB for upper extremity surgery from March 2011 to May 2017. The composite primary outcome was the occurrence of any catheter-related issue or additional all-cause health care intervention after discharge. Our secondary outcome was the ability to achieve regular daily telephone contact.

Results: Five hundred one patients formed the final sample. The incidence of any issue or health care intervention was 104/274 (38%) for infraclavicular, 58/185 (31%) for interscalene, and 14/42 (33%) for supraclavicular; these rates did not differ between groups. Higher ASA status was associated with greater odds of having any issue, whereas increasing age was slightly protective. Distance was associated with an increase in catheter-related issues (P < 0.01) but not additional health care interventions (P = 0.51). Only interscalene catheter patients (3%) reported breathing difficulty. Infraclavicular catheter patients had the most emergency room visits but rarely for CPNB issues. Consistent daily telephone contact was not achieved.

Conclusions: For VHA ambulatory CPNB patients, the combined incidence of a catheter-related issue or additional health care intervention was approximately one in three patients and did not differ by brachial plexus catheter type. Serious adverse events were generally uncommon.

Keywords: Ambulatory Surgery; Brachial Plexus; Complications; Continuous Peripheral Nerve Block; Perineural Catheter; Regional Anesthesia.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ambulatory Surgical Procedures / methods
  • Anesthetics, Local / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Block / adverse effects
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain, Postoperative / etiology*
  • Pain, Postoperative / surgery
  • Patient Discharge / statistics & numerical data*
  • Peripheral Nerves / surgery*
  • Upper Extremity / surgery*
  • Veterans Health


  • Anesthetics, Local