BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Cervical plexus blocks are commonly used to facilitate carotid endarterectomy (CEA) in the awake patient. These blocks can be divided into superficial, intermediate, and deep blocks by their relation to the fasciae of the neck. We hypothesized that the depth of block would have a significant impact on phrenic nerve blockade and consequently hemi-diaphragmatic motion. METHODS: We enrolled 45 patients in an observer blinded randomized controlled trial, scheduled for elective, awake CEA. Patients received either deep, intermediate, or superficial cervical plexus blocks, using 20 mL of 0.5% ropivacaine mixed with an MRI contrast agent. Before and after placement of the block, transabdominal ultrasound measurements of diaphragmatic movement were performed. Patients underwent MRI of the neck to evaluate spread of the injectate, as well as lung function measurements. The primary outcome was ipsilateral difference of hemi-diaphragmatic motion during forced inspiration between study groups. RESULTS: Postoperatively, forced inspiration movement of the ipsilateral diaphragm (4.34±1.06, 3.86±1.24, 2.04±1.20 (mean in cm±SD for superficial, intermediate and deep, respectively)) was statistically different between block groups (p<0.001). Differences were also seen during normal inspiration. Lung function, oxygen saturation, complication rates, and patient satisfaction did not differ. MRI studies indicated pronounced permeation across the superficial fascia, but nevertheless easily distinguishable spread of injectate within the targeted compartments. CONCLUSIONS: We studied the characteristics and side effects of cervical plexus blocks by depth of injection. Diaphragmatic dysfunction was most pronounced in the deep cervical plexus block group. TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: EudraCT 2017-001300-30.
Department of Anesthesiology, Paracelsus Medical University, Salzburg, Austria email@example.com.