Regional nerve blocks are commonly used to manage postoperative pain after arthroscopic shoulder procedures. The interscalene brachial plexus block (ISB) is commonly used; however, because of the reported side effects of ISB, the use of a suprascapular nerve block (SSNB) has been described as an alternative strategy with fewer reported side effects.
To examine the efficacy of SSNB for pain control after shoulder arthroscopy compared with ISB as well as anesthesia without a nerve block.
Systematic review; Level of evidence, 1.
Three databases (PubMed, MEDLINE, and EMBASE) were searched on April 20, 2018, to systematically identify and screen the literature for randomized controlled trials (RCTs). A meta-analysis of standard mean differences (SMDs) was performed to pool the estimated effects of the nerve blocks.
The search identified 14 RCTs that included 1382 patients, with a mean age of 54 years (SD, 13 years). The mean follow-up time was 3 days (range, 24 hours to 6 weeks). Postoperative pain control was significantly more effective in the SSNB groups compared with the control groups within 1 hour (SMD, –0.76; 95% CI, –1.45 to –0.07; P = .03) and 4 to 6 hours (SMD, –0.81; 95% CI, –1.53 to –0.09; P = .03) postoperatively. However, pain control was significantly less effective in the SSNB groups compared with ISB within 1 hour (SMD, 0.87; 95% CI, 0.28 to 1.46; P = .004). No major complications were noted in the SSNB groups, and minor complications such as hoarseness and prolonged motor block were significantly less common for SSNB compared with ISB.
Although not more efficacious than ISB in terms of pain control for patients undergoing shoulder arthroscopy, SSNB provides significantly improved pain control in comparison with analgesia without a nerve block. Moreover, few major and minor complications are associated with SSNB reported across the literature.