BACKGROUND: Placement of local anaesthetic within the adductor canal using ultrasonography is an alternative to femoral nerve blocks for postoperative pain relief after knee joint replacement surgery. However, the effect of an inflated thigh tourniquet on the distribution of local anaesthetic within the adductor canal is unknown. The aim of this cadaveric study was to compare the distribution of radio-opaque dye within the adductor canal in the presence or absence of an inflated thigh tourniquet.
METHODS: Bilateral ultrasound-guided adductor canal blocks were performed on the thawed lower limbs of five fresh frozen human cadavers. The left and right lower cadaver limbs were randomised to receive or not receive a thigh tourniquet inflated to 300 mm Hg for 1 h. X-rays with iohexol radio-opaque dye were obtained in four views, and fiducial markers inserted as reference points. Virtual editing technology was used to recreate outlines representing the distribution of the radio-opaque dye and superimpose these on anatomical images.
RESULTS: Radio-opaque dye was distributed on the medial aspect of the thighs with entire and well circumscribed margins. The majority of the radio-opaque dye was confined within the adductor canal. Superior-inferior dye distribution was 315 mm [95% confidence intervals (CI) 289-342] and 264 mm (95% CI 239-289) in the presence and absence of an inflated thigh tourniquet, respectively (diff 95% CI -80.46 to -22.22, P=0.0081). Image analysis using the recreated radio-opaque outlines suggested that the most proximal point of the radio-opaque dye was 100 mm (95% CI 82-117) or 117 mm (95% CI 62-171) below the inguinal ligament in the presence and absence of an inflated thigh tourniquet, respectively (diff 95% CI -38 to 72, P=0.456).
CONCLUSIONS: Application and inflation of thigh tourniquets significantly increased the combined superior-inferior dye distribution within the adductor canal of cadaveric limbs. There was insufficient evidence to suggest significant proximal spread of 25 ml of local anaesthetic to involve the motor branches of the femoral nerve. In some patients, the local anaesthetic may reach the popliteal fossa in close approximation to the sciatic nerve.
- Aged, 80 and over
- Anesthetics, Local/pharmacokinetics
- Contrast Media
- Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
- Nerve Block/methods
- Thigh/diagnostic imaging
- Ultrasonography, Interventional/methods