Suprascapular Nerve Block

The Suprascapular Nerve Block is another popular block. It is often used in post-operative pain control adjunct for various surgical procedures of the shoulder and upper arm and shoulder.

Frequently, the block is performed before surgery to allow for patient input as to changes in sensation in the shoulder and arm during catheter/needle placement. The block can, however, be performed in the post operative period with the use of ultrasound guidance with good results.

Specially designed needles that also serve as nerve stimulators, together with ultrasound guidance, help to identify and localize the nerve as well as maximize accuracy of the block. Several approaches can be used to access the nerve. Frequently, the approach involves the top side of the shoulder.

One of the most common procedures that benefit from the pain control advantages of a suprascapular block is arthroscopic shoulder surgery.

Extensive arthroscopic procedures can be performed, with the patient obtaining significant pain control, which also allows for these procedures to be on an out-patient basis.

In a study conducted by Ewan D. Ritchie et al., Department of Anesthesia, University of Toronto, they examined the effectiveness of utilizing a scalene block in combination with a general anesthetic (where you are asleep). Read their conclusion below:

“In summary, the concomitant use of suprascapular (scalene) nerve block and general anesthesia was highly effective in patients undergoing ambulatory shoulder arthroscopy. Blocking the nerve supply to the shoulder provided postoperative pain relief, reduced the postoperative morphine requirement, and shortened the recovery process. In view of its efficacy and relative safety, suprascapular nerve block can be used routinely as a supplement to general anesthesia in ambulatory shoulder arthroscopic surgery.”

Additionally, this type of nerve block can be utilized in the treatment of chronic pain syndromes, as well as pain control from diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Pain from metastatic disease of the humeral head (ball of the shoulder) can be reduced with this type of treatment.

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