Interscalene brachial plexus nerve block in the emergency department: an effective and practice-changing workshop

Ultrasound J. 2019 Jul 15;11(1):15. doi: 10.1186/s13089-019-0131-x.


Background: The interscalene brachial plexus nerve block (ISNB) is a potentially useful method of regional analgesia for humerus fracture and shoulder dislocation reduction in the Emergency Department (ED). We examined the effectiveness of an ISNB workshop given to emergency medicine (EM) residents. We also explored complication rates and effectiveness of ISNBs performed in the ED.

Methods: One-hour evidence-based ISNB workshops were conducted with EM residents. Participants were given pre-, post-, and 3-month post-workshop knowledge and technical assessments. Results were analyzed using descriptive statistics. A pre- and post-workshop chart review examined ISNB utilization, complications, post-ISNB opiate administration, and post-ISNB procedural sedation.

Results: 41 residents enrolled in the workshop. Pre-workshop pass rate: knowledge assessment 22%. Immediate post-workshop pass rates: knowledge assessment 100%, image acquisition 93%, needle placement 100%. Three months post-workshop pass rates: knowledge assessment 73%, image acquisition 76%, needle placement 100%. Areas of poorest knowledge retention were anatomical landmarks, block distribution, and early signs of LAST. In the chart review, 2 ISNBs were performed in the pre-workshop period, and 12 in the post-workshop period. No serious complications were recorded. 78.5% of attempted ISNBs were successful, without need for procedural sedation. Of the 11 successfully performed ISNBs, 91% received no opiates after the procedure.

Conclusions: Our study suggests that EM residents can learn the ISNB, perform it safely in the emergency department, and that the ISNB may be an alternative to procedural sedation and opiate use for shoulder dislocation. Residents are adept at ISNB technical skills but demonstrate some deficits in knowledge retention.

Keywords: Emergency medicine; Interscalene brachial plexus nerve block; Medical education; Pain management; Point of care ultrasound; Regional anesthesia; Shoulder dislocation.