Cadaveric study investigating the phrenic-sparing volume for anterior suprascapular nerve block

Reg Anesth Pain Med. 2021 Sep;46(9):769-772. doi: 10.1136/rapm-2021-102803. Epub 2021 Jun 3.


Background: This cadaveric study investigated the maximum effective volume of dye in 90% of cases (MEV90), required to stain the suprascapular nerve while sparing the phrenic nerve during the performance of an anterior suprascapular nerve block.

Methods: In cadaveric neck specimens, using ultrasound guidance, the block needle was advanced until its tip was positioned underneath the omohyoid muscle next to the suprascapular nerve. The dye was injected in order to achieve circumferential spread around the latter. Successful phrenic-sparing suprascapular nerve block was defined as the non-staining of the phrenic nerve on dissection. Volume assignment was carried out using a Biased Coin Design, whereby the volume of dye administered to each cadaveric specimen depended on the response of the previous one. In case of failure (ie, stained phrenic nerve), the next one received a lower volume (defined as the previous volume with a decrement of 2 mL). If the previous cadaveric specimen had a successful block (ie, non-stained phrenic nerve), the next one was randomized to a higher volume (defined as the previous volume with an increment of 2 mL), with a probability of b=0.11, or the same volume, with a probability of 1 - b=0.89.

Results: Thirty-one cadavers (56 cadaveric neck specimens) were included in the study. Using isotonic regression and bootstrap CI, the MEV90 for phrenic-sparing anterior suprascapular nerve block was estimated to be 4.2 mL (95% CI 3.0 to 5.0 mL). The probability of a successful response was estimated to be 0.90 (95% CI 0.84 to 0.96).

Conclusion: For ultrasound-guided anterior suprascapular nerve block, the MEV90 of dye required to spare the phrenic nerve is 4.2 mL. Further studies are required to correlate this finding with the MEV90 of local anesthetic in live subjects.

Keywords: nerve block; ultrasonography; upper extremity.

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia, Conduction*
  • Brachial Plexus* / diagnostic imaging
  • Cadaver
  • Humans
  • Nerve Block*
  • Ultrasonography, Interventional