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Combined femoral–obturator–sciatic nerve block has superior postoperative pain score and earlier ambulation as compared to spinal anaesthesia for arthroscopic anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction

Abstract

Purpose

Peripheral nerve blocks can be a suitable alternative to central neuraxial blockage, as the sole anaesthetic agent for better early postoperative outcomes, decreased hospital stay and earlier mobilisation after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR) surgery. The purpose of this study was to compare consciousness during the procedure, pain during early postoperative period (< 7 days), and perioperative outcomes following ACLR using combined sciatic, femoral, and obturator nerve blocks compared to the spinal anaesthesia.

Methods

This was a prospective case–control study including patients between 18 and 55 years of age, with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury confirmed clinically and radiologically and undergoing ACLR. Patients were allocated in the two groups alternatively, group 1 included patients who received combined nerve blocks, and group 2 included patients who received spinal anaesthesia for the surgery. The sensory effect, motor effect, adequacy of anaesthesia, perioperative analgesic use, duration of stay, postoperative pain (visual analogue scale 0–10 cm) and functional outcomes were noted.

Results

There were 60 patients in each group. A total of seven patients in group 1 (11%) and two patients in group 2 (3%) needed conversion to general anaesthesia (n.s.). In group 1, out of 53 patients who underwent surgery, 26 patients had no perception of surgery in the joint, 17 patients had perception of manipulation of the knee joint, 4 patients had sense of touch, and 6 patients had sensation of pain in the knee (VAS scale less than 3). In group 2, out of 58 patients, 42 patients had no perception of surgery, 12 had a perception of manipulation of the knee joint, 2 had sense of touch, and 2 had sensation of pain in the knee. Blockage of sensory effect was significantly better in group 2 (p = 0.0001). However, the motor effect was comparable between the two groups (n.s.). Group 1 had significantly better pain scores 6, 12, and 18 h after the surgery. Moreover, patients in group 1 also had faster ambulation (mean difference of 5.5 h, p = 0.0001) and reduced hospital stay (mean difference of 8.4 h, p = 0.0001).

Conclusion

Combined sciatic, femoral, and adductor canal block is an effective sole anaesthetic modality for ACLR. The sensory effect was inferior when compared to spinal anaesthesia but sufficient for the procedure without the need for supplementation with any other anaesthetic modality. Patients receiving this combined nerve block had lesser early postoperative pain scores, earlier ambulation, and shorter hospital stay as compared to the spinal anaesthesia.

Level of evidence

Level 3.

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Correspondence to Tarun Goyal.

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The institutional ethics committee approved the study (AIIMS/IEC/17/128).

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Goyal, T., Paul, S., Choudhury, A.K. et al. Combined femoral–obturator–sciatic nerve block has superior postoperative pain score and earlier ambulation as compared to spinal anaesthesia for arthroscopic anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc 30, 3480–3487 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00167-022-06955-y

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00167-022-06955-y

Keywords

  • Anterior cruciate ligament
  • Spinal anesthesia
  • Nerve block
  • Local anesthetics
  • Pain perception