Continuous Versus Single-Injection Peripheral Nerve Blocks: A Prospective Cohort Study Comparing Procedural Time and Estimated Personnel Cost

Brendan Carvalho1, *, Romy D. Yun2, Edward R. Mariano3
1 Stanford University Medical Center, Stanford, California, USA
2 Private Practice Anesthesia Group, Washington Hospital, Fremont, California, USA
3 VA Palo Alto Health Care System, Palo Alto, California, USA

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Creative Commons License
© 2015 Carvalho et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Anesthesia, H3580, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California 94305; Tel: 650-861-8607; Fax: 650-725-8544; E-mail:


Background and Objectives:

Continuous peripheral nerve blocks (CPNB) provide many additional benefits compared to single-injection peripheral nerve blocks (SPNB). However, the time and costs associated with CPNB provision have not been previously considered. The objective of this study was to compare the time required and estimated personnel costs associated with CPNB and SPNB.


This IRB-exempt observational study involved provision of preoperative regional anesthesia procedures in a “block room” model by a dedicated team during routine clinical care. The primary outcome, the time to perform ultrasound-guided popliteal-sciatic blocks, was recorded prospectively. This time measurement was broken down into individual tasks: time to place monitors, prepare the equipment, scan and identify the target, perform the block, and clean up post-procedure. For peripheral nerve block catheters, time to insert, locate, and secure the catheter was also recorded. Cost estimates for physician time were determined using published national mean hourly wages.


Time measurements were recorded for 24 nerve block procedures (12 CPNB and 12 SPNB). The median (IQR; range) total time (seconds) taken to perform blocks was 1132 (1083-1290; 1060-1623) for CPNB versus 505 (409-589; 368-635) for SPNB (Table 1; p<0.001). The median (IQR) cost attributed to physician time during block performance was $35.20 ($33.66-$40.11) and $15.69 ($12.73-$18.32) for CPNB and SPNB, respectively.


CPNB requires approximately 10 more minutes per procedure to perform when compared to SPNB. This additional time should be considered along with potential patient benefits and available resources when developing a regional anesthesia and acute pain medicine service.

Keywords: Cost, Continuous Peripheral Nerve Block, Peripheral Nerve Block, Regional Anesthesia, Single-Injection Block, Time.