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Continuous peripheral nerve block (CPNB), in particular at the popliteal fossa, is widely used in orthopedic surgery, allowing good postoperative analgesia. Possible neuropathic complications, however, remain poorly known.
To review the characteristics of peripheral neuropathy (PN) after sciatic CPNB at the popliteal fossa, estimating prevalence, severity, evolution and possible risk factors, especially those relating to the procedure.
Retrospective study of PN associated with popliteal fossa CPNB for hallux valgus surgery, between November 1st, 2005 and November 1st, 2009. All procedures were analyzed (type of anesthesia, approach, nerve location technique, number of procedures by operator) with, for each case of PN, analysis of clinical and electromyographic data.
One hundred and fifty seven sciatic CPNBs were performed (92% women; mean age, 55 years). The approach was lateral (n=62), posterior (n=74) or unknown (n=21). Ultrasound guidance was combined to neurostimulation for 69 patients (44%). Three women (prevalence=1.91%), aged 19, 24 and 65 years respectively, developed associated common superficial peroneal and sural nerve injury (2), axonal on electromyography, with motor (n=1) and/or sensory (n=3) residual dysfunction.
The higher prevalence found in the present study than in the literature (0 to 0.5%) raises questions of methodological bias or technical problems. The common peroneal and sural nerves seem to be exposed, unlike the tibial. Several mechanisms can be suggested: anesthetic neurotoxicity, direct mechanical lesion, or tourniquet-related ischemia and conduction block. Further studies are necessary to determine the ideal anesthetic procedure.
Patients should be informed of the potential risk, however rare, even during mild surgery. The best possible technique should be implemented, with reinforced surveillance.
Level of evidence
Level IV retrospective study.Le texte complet de cet article est disponible en PDF.
Keywords : Sciatic nerve block, Popliteal fossa, Peripheral neuropathy, Popliteal nerve block, Nerve injury