Relation between functional deficit and intraneural local anesthetic during peripheral nerve block. A study in the rat sciatic nerve

Anesthesiology. 1995 Sep;83(3):583-92. doi: 10.1097/00000542-199509000-00018.


Background: During peripheral nerve block, local anesthetic (LA) penetrates within and along the nerve to produce the observed functional deficits. Although much is known about the kinetics and steady-state relation for LA inhibition of impulse activity in vitro in isolated nerve, little is known about the relation between functional loss and intraneural LA content in vivo. This study was undertaken to investigate the relation of functional change to intraneural LA.

Methods: A sciatic nerve block was performed in rats with 0.1 ml 1% lidocaine radiolabeled with 14C. The total intraneural uptake of LA was determined at different times after injection, and the distribution of lidocaine along the nerve was assayed at different stages of functional block. Drug content was also compared with equilibrium lidocaine uptake in the isolated rat sciatic nerve.

Results: Total intraneural lidocaine in vivo increased to near steady-state in about 3 min, stabilizing at approximately 14.3 nmol/mg wet tissue for about 12 min before decreasing to zero at 70 min after injection. Although intraneural lidocaine was 1.6% of the injected dose during full block, only 0.3% was left when deep pain sensation returned and 0.065% was still detected when functions fully recovered. Despite these large differences in total lidocaine content, the longitudinal distribution remained constant. Intraneural lidocaine concentrations obtained at full block and partial recovery could be achieved in vitro by equilibration in 0.7-0.9 and 0.2-0.3 mM lidocaine, respectively.

Conclusions: During peripheral nerve block only a small amount of injected LA penetrates into the nerve. The intraneural content of LA correlates with the depth of functional block.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Lidocaine / pharmacokinetics*
  • Lidocaine / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Nerve Block*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sciatic Nerve / metabolism*


  • Lidocaine