Interscalene brachial plexus blocks under general anesthesia in children: Is this safe practice?: A report from the Pediatric Regional Anesthesia Network (PRAN)

Andreas Taenzer*, Benjamin Walker, Adrian Bosenberg, Elliot Krane, Lynn Martin, David Polaner, Christie Wolf, Santhanam Suresh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: A practice advisory on regional anesthesia in children in 2008, published in this journal, supported the placement of regional blocks in children under general anesthesia (GA). Interscalene brachial plexus (IS) blocks were specifically excluded, based on case reports (level 3 evidence) of injury, which occurred predominantly in heavily sedated or anesthetized adult patients. Apart from case reports, there is a paucity of data that explore the safety of IS blocks placed in patients under GA, and the level of evidence available on which to base recommendations is limited. METHODS: Querying the database of the Pediatric Regional Anesthesia Network (PRAN), we report on the incidence of postoperative neurological symptoms, local anesthetic systemic toxicity, and other reported adverse events in children receiving IS blocks under GA or sedated. RESULTS: A total of 518 interscalene blocks were performed, 390 under GA and 123 with the patient sedated or awake (5 cases had missing status); 472 of these were single injection, and 46 involved the placement of infusion catheters. Eighty-eight percent of blocks were placed with ultrasound guidance, 7.7% with no location device, and 2.5% with a nerve stimulator. No local anesthetic systemic toxicity, postoperative neurological symptoms, cardiovascular complications, or dural puncture was reported in this cohort. There were 1 vascular puncture and 1 postoperative infection. These negative results are compatible with 0 to 7.7/1000 events for each of these complications for IS blocks placed under GA. There was no paralysis, motor block, or sensory deficit beyond the expected block duration time. CONCLUSIONS: Analyzing interscalene blocks in children placed under GA, we identified no serious adverse events. The upper limit of the confidence interval for these events is similar to that in awake or sedated adults receiving IS blocks. Based on these prospectively collected data, placement of IS blocks under GA in children is no less safe than placement in awake adults, calling into question the American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine advisory proscribing GA during IS block in pediatric patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)502-505
Number of pages4
JournalRegional anesthesia and pain medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 12 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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