The role of peripheral nerve stimulation in the era of ultrasound-guided regional anaesthesia.
With the widespread use of ultrasound for localising nerves during peripheral nerve blockade, the value of electrical nerve stimulation of evoked motor responses has been questioned. Studies continue to show that, compared with nerve stimulation, ultrasound guidance alone leads to: significantly improved block success; decreased need for rescue analgesia; decreased procedural pain; and lower rates of vascular puncture. Nerve stimulation combined with ultrasound does also not appear to improve block success rates, apart from those blocks where the nerves are challenging to view, such as the obturator nerve. The role of nerve stimulation has changed in the last 15 years from a technique to locate nerves to that of an adjunct to ultrasound. Nerve stimulation can serve as a monitor against needle-nerve contact and may be useful in avoiding nerves that are in the needle trajectory during specific ultrasound guided techniques. Nerve stimulation is also a useful adjunct in teaching novices ultrasound-guided regional anaesthesia, especially when the position and or appearance of nerves may be variable. In this review, the changing role of nerve stimulation in contemporary regional anaesthetic practice is presented and discussed.
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