Staff Attitudes to an Ultrasound

Staff Attitudes to an Ultrasound-Guided Peripheral Nerve Block Room
for Orthopaedic Patients
DM Moore, M Duggan
Mayo General Hospital, Castlebar, Co Mayo
Ultrasound-guided peripheral nerve blocks have well recognised benefits in orthopaedic patients. Some hospitals, to
maximise these benefits, establish dedicated block rooms to deliver this service. Orthopaedic surgery makes up a
large proportion of our hospitals work load, and many of these patients would benefit from ultrasound-guided
peripheral nerve blocks. We analysed the attitudes of key staff in our hospital towards the establishment of a block
room. Sixty questionnaires were distributed and 47 (78%) were completed. Orthopaedic surgeons (n=6) were concerned
ultrasound-guided peripheral nerve blocks would delay theatre lists (83%), and cause patients pain (67%) and increased
anxiety (67%). Anaesthetists (n=10) and Nurses (n=30) were concerned there was insufficient experience in their
departments to deliver this service (80% and 77%, respectively). However, 91% of all staff believed funding should be
available for a block room. Our survey has identified areas of concern, and deficiencies that we must address before
proceeding with the development of such a service.
Peripheral nerve blocks (PNB) involve injecting local anaesthetic around a nerve to provide anaesthesia or analgesia
to a particular region of the body. To accurately target the nerve, a nerve stimulator generating electrical pulses
has been used to indicate the needle tips proximity to the target nerve. Once this is confirmed the local anaesthetic
may be injected. In recent times, ultrasound has become a popular way of localising the nerve. Serious adverse events
include peripheral neuropathy, seizures, respiratory arrest,
and cardiac arrest. Fortunately, the incidence of these
complications are rare (0-10 incidents per 10,000 cases). When compared with general anaesthesia (GA), PNB have been
associated with less postoperative pain and nausea, 2-4
better patient acceptance, and earlier ambulation and hospital
discharge for many different orthopaedic operations.
PNB may also be combined with
GA or neuraxial anaesthesia for
particular orthopaedic operations to enhance the patients post-operative recovery.
Obviously, any intervention that
has such a positive influence on a patients post-operative recovery should have significant
economic benefits for the
hospital and society in general. This has been demonstrated in a number of studies.
However, the method of
administering the PNB, and the equipment and environment used, must be time and cost-efficient to realise these
The establishment of a block room, a dedicated space for the provision of PNB, stocked with the required
equipment, and staffed by a trained operator, has been reported in numerous studies in orthopaedic theatres.
general, they report improved theatre efficiency. Over the past 5-10 years, ultrasound guidance is used more
frequently for peripheral nerve blocks, in preference over nerve stimulation techniques. While there is no strong
evidence to suggest it is a safer approach, it has multiple advantages over nerve stimulation, including direct
visualisation of the target structures and identifying
anatomical variants, reducing local anaesthetic volume, and
achieving less painful, better quality blocks. Considering this evidence, a block room should favour
ultrasound-guided PNB (US-PNB) to maximise productivity.
Our institution is a 339 bed district hospital. A large proportion of the surgical operations are orthopaedic with
approximately 1,500 cases (trauma and elective) performed annually. There is no significant history of US-PNB for
orthopaedic patients in the hospital. We surveyed the relevant staff members on knowledge of US-PNB for orthopaedic
operations, and their attitudes towards potential advantages and disadvantages of introducing a block room to our
hospital. The successful introduction of any new service or technique to a hospital is heavily dependent on the
support of the majority of the relevant staff. We planned to assess the level of support for such a service, and to
identify issues that may obstruct the establishment of an efficient block room.
Local Research Ethics Committee approval was granted for our survey. We devised a two page questionnaire. It was
anonymous, but identified the staff members occupation, and career grade. Staff were asked if they ever worked in a
hospital that offered regular US-PNB to orthopaedic patients, and to rate their knowledge of US-PNB (none, basic,
moderate, good, or expert) (Table 1). Staff were then asked to answer (Yes/No/Don Know) a number of hypothetical
questions related to operating a block room for orthopaedic patients in our hospital (Figure 1 and Figure 2). They
were told that it was not a test of knowledge, but rather an assessment of their own personal opinions. What did they
perceive as the advantages or disadvantages of introducing this service to our hospital? Finally, we asked if they
believed the hospital should invest in a block room. Sixty questionnaires were distributed to the relevant
departments, and the completed copies were gathered after one week.
Of the 60 questionnaires distributed, 47 (78%) were completed and returned. The staff members represented (n, % total
group) were Anaesthetists (AS) (10, 21%), Nurses (NS) (Theatre, Orthopaedic Ward, and Day Ward Nurses) (30, 64%),
Orthopaedic Surgeons (OS) (6, 13%), and a Physiotherapist (1, 2%). The percentage of staff from each group that
answered yes to a question are represented in Figure 1 (advantages) and Figure 2 (disadvantages).
When considering the advantages of a block room, all groups were in agreement that they expected faster
recovery, less PONV, and less delirium post-operatively. However, the OS disagreed with the AS and NS
who suggested that a block room would lead to increased patient satisfaction, and allow faster
mobilisation, decreased length of stay (LOS), and cost savings for the hospital. When asked about
disadvantages or obstacles associated with a block room, OS were most concerned about delays to orthopaedic list
(83%), and that it was a painful procedure (67%) that could cause high patient anxiety (67%). AS and NS
were most concerned about the inexperienced staff in their individual Departments, 80% and 77%, respectively.
Ninety-one percent of all staff believed funding should be available for a block room.
In a subgroup analysis, the decision makers in the respective groups (Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeons (3), Consultant
Anaesthetists (5), and Clinical Nurse Managers (CNM) (3)), were separated out from the general staff, and their
answers were reassessed. We found that the CNM opinions correlated with the general NS on all questions. The CNM were
more experienced and knowledgeable (Good/Expert) about the use of US-PNB when compared with the general NS (67% and
33% vs. 19% and 0%, respectively). Consultant OS opinions were also in line with the opinions of the Junior OS on most
questions except for the question of funding a block room. Only one Consultant felt this would be appropriate (33%)
compared to 100% of the Junior OS. Again, the Consultant OS had more knowledge (Good/Expert) of US-PNB when compared
to the Junior OS (100% vs. 0%). In contrast, the Consultant AS agreed with the Junior AS on only two factors (100%
agreement on faster recovery and better pain control post-operatively). On every other question, the
Consultants were more negative about the potential advantages/disadvantages of an US-PNB service for orthopaedic
patients. All of the Consultant AS (100%) believed inexperienced anaesthetic staff would complicate the
establishment of a block room. Only 40% of Consultant AS had previous experience of US-PNB in another hospital versus
100% of Junior AS.
Staff Attitudes to an Ultrasound-Guided Peripheral Nerve Block Room for Orthopaedic Patients
We feel our survey has identified a number of areas that should be addressed before proceeding with further plans. The
OS sited delays to orthopaedic list as the major disadvantage to setting up a block room. A survey of Canadian
orthopaedic surgeons also cited delays
in operating rooms and unpredictable success as the two main
reasons they would not favour PNB. An efficient service should not delay lists, and may indeed improve list flow.
However, OS perception is often more relevant than fact, and a subsequent analysis showed
preference for a nerve block predicted their preference for their patients anaesthetic. This is important, because
the surgeon can influence the patients choice of anaesthetic. In the Canadian survey, 48% of surgeons directed the
patients choice of anaesthetic pre-operatively. In our study, the OS also raised concerns that it was a painful
procedure and may cause high patient anxiety. Patients major concerns in relation to a PNB relate to a
fear of hearing or seeing
the operation. However, if they have a previous experience of a PNB, they are 3 times more
likely to opt for a PNB. In order to establish a successful block room, the concerns of OS would have to be
discussed. The OS have a great influence on the patients choices and confidence in the anaesthetic technique. The
best approach to dealing with this would be a collaborative approach (AS, OS, and NS) when drafting protocols for the
room, so that all parties were comfortable with the service plan.
The AS were the only group significantly concerned with high block failure rates as an obstacle to running an
efficient service (50%). However, this is a very important element of a successful block room, and high success rates
are essential. Generally, when performed by a trained
operator, the incidence of US-PNB failure is low, <5% for upper
extremity PNB, and 3-10% for lower extremity PNB. However, even lower failure rates are probably required to realise
major economic benefits. The advantages of PNB techniques in orthopaedic practice are well documented. Reduced
post-operative nausea and vomiting, reduced post-operative pain, and earlier ambulation are commonly reported.
However, it is not always so straightforward to realise the economic benefits in routine clinical practice.
A block
room facilitates a more efficient service, allowing PNB to proceed while the theatre is occupied with another patient.
It also provides an optimal environment for providing PNB (with all the required equipment in one location), and a
good teaching environment for junior staff. The investment required to establish a modern block room is not
insignificant. The largest initial expense is the equipment, in particular the ultrasound machine. However, more
significant on-going expenses include the use of valuable theatre space, and staffing the room with an experienced
regional anaesthetist. It is, therefore, important to address any obstacles to an efficient block room before
allocating increasingly scarce resources.
Staff education should play a major role in facilitating further progress. Both AS and NS groups expressed concern
with inexperienced staff in their respective
departments. They are justified in their concern. The management of
these patients can be very different. Confidence in caring for these patients, and identifying possible
complications, is crucial. The subgroup analysis was important, because the introduction of a new practice is
generally directed by the most senior staff members. This demonstrated a more negative perspective on a block room
amongst the Consultant AS when compared with their junior colleagues. This may be explained by their relative
inexperience in US-PNB (40%). In contrast, all of the Junior AS (100%) had previous exposure due to their regular
rotation through other institutions. Despite the potential obstacles, 91% of all staff surveyed felt that a block room
should be funded by the hospital administration.
Our study is limited by a small sample size. However, a good response rate from the key staff members provides us with
very relevant data. Our results are unlikely to reflect opinions in other institutions, but repeating the same process
could provide a Department with valuable information. Our survey has identified a number of issues that, through good
inter-disciplinary communication and educational programs, are not insurmountable. US-PNB in orthopaedic patients is a
rapidly growing area, and at some stage patients may expect to be offered this routinely. Establishing a block room
maximises the efficiency of this service, and provides a safe environment for practice and further education of
Correspondence: DM Moore
Department of Anaesthesia, Mayo General Hospital, Castlebar, Co Mayo
Email: [email protected]
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Staff Attitudes to an Ultrasound-Guided Peripheral Nerve Block Room for Orthopaedic Patients