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Open Access Research article

A comparison of three techniques (local anesthetic deposited circumferential to vs. above vs. below the nerve) for ultrasound guided femoral nerve block

Szilárd Szűcs1*, Didier Morau12, Syed F Sultan1, Gabriella Iohom1 and George Shorten1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Anaesthesia, Intensive Care and Pain Medicine, Cork University Hospital and University College Cork, Cork, Ireland

2 Department of Anaesthesia and Traumatology, Centre Hospitalier, Universitaire de Montpellier, DARA, France

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BMC Anesthesiology 2014, 14:6  doi:10.1186/1471-2253-14-6

Published: 25 January 2014



Fractured neck of femur generally requires operative fixation and is a common cause of admission to hospital. The combination of femoral nerve block and spinal anesthesia is a common anesthetic technique used to facilitate the surgical procedure. The optimal disposition of local anesthetic (LA) relative the femoral nerve (FN) has not been defined. Our hypothesis was: that the deposition of LA relative to the FN influences the quality of analgesia for positioning of the patient for performance of spinal anesthesia. The primary outcome was verbal rating (VRS) pain scores 0–10 assessed immediately after positioning the patient to perform spinal anesthesia.


With Institutional ethical approval and having obtained written informed consent from each, 52 patients were studied. The study was registered with (NCT01527812). Patients were randomly allocated to undergo to one of three groups namely: intention to deposit lidocaine 2% (15 ml) i. above (Group A), ii. below (Group B), iii. circumferential (Group C) to the FN. A blinded observer assessed i. the sensory nerve block (cold) in the areas of the terminal branches of the FN and ii. VRS pain scores on passive movement from block completion at 5 minutes intervals for 30 minutes. Immediately after positioning the patient for spinal anesthesia, VRS pain scores were recorded.


Pain VRS scores during positioning were similar in the three groups [Above group/Below group/Circumferential group: 2(0–9)/0(0–10)/3(0–10), median(range), p:0.32]. The block was deemed to have failed in 20%, 47% and 12% in the Above group, Below group and Circumferential group respectively. The median number of needle passes was greater in the Circumferential group compared with the Above group (p:0.009). Patient satisfaction was greatest in the Circumferential group [mean satisfaction scores were 83.5(19.8)/88.1(20.5)/93.8(12.3), [mean(SD), p=0.04] in the Above, Below and Circumferential groups respectively.


We conclude that there is no clinical advantage to attempting to deposit LA circumferential to the femoral nerve (relative to depositing LA either above or below the nerve), during femoral nerve block in this setting.

Optimal positioning of the local anesthetic; Femoral nerve block