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ISSN: Print -2349-0977, Online - 2349-4387

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Year : 2018  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 221-226

Comparison of psoas compartment block and epidural block for postoperative analgesia in hip surgeries

Department of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, Vardhman Mahavir Medical College and Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi, India

Date of Web Publication29-Oct-2018

Correspondence Address:
Jeetendra K Bajaj
Department of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, Vardhman Mahavir Medical College and Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/astrocyte.astrocyte_82_17

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Context: Psoas compartment block via lumbar paravertebral approach has been compared with epidural block for postoperative pain relief following hip surgery. Settings and Design: This prospective, randomized study was conducted in the department of Anesthesia in a tertiary care hospital. Materials and Methods: This study was conducted on 60 patients undergoing unilateral hip surgery. They were randomly assigned to either psoas compartment (P) or epidural (E) group (30 in each group). A lumbar paravertebral (psoas compartment) or epidural catheter was placed before the start of surgery. A subarachnoid block using 0.5% hyperbaric bupivacaine and fentanyl was subsequently administered. After 2 h, a loading dose of 10 ml of 0.25% bupivacaine was given, and infusion of the same drug started at 5 ml/h in group P and 5 ml/h of 0.125% bupivacaine in group E using an elastomeric infusion pump. The patients were observed for 24 h and quality of pain relief with both the techniques was compared. Statistical Analysis: Categorical variables were analyzed with Chi-square test while continuous variables were analyzed with Student's t-test. Visual analog scale was expressed as median and was analyzed with Mann–Whitney test. A software program (SPSS 21) was used. P <0.05 was considered significant. Results: The mean duration of postoperative analgesia in the epidural group was 551.11 min compared to 427.25 min in the psoas compartment group (P > 0.05), which was not statistically significant. Mean pain scores at 4 and 8 h postoperatively were higher in the psoas compartment block resulting in greater rescue analgesic requirement in this group. Conclusions: Psoas compartment block can be considered an alternative in patients with relative contraindications to epidural block such as those on deep vein thrombosis prophylaxis with anticoagulants.

Keywords: Epidural block, hip surgery, lumbar paravertebral, postoperative analgesia, psoas compartment block

How to cite this article:
Singh R, Bajaj JK, Singh D. Comparison of psoas compartment block and epidural block for postoperative analgesia in hip surgeries. Astrocyte 2018;4:221-6

How to cite this URL:
Singh R, Bajaj JK, Singh D. Comparison of psoas compartment block and epidural block for postoperative analgesia in hip surgeries. Astrocyte [serial online] 2018 [cited 2019 Dec 8];4:221-6. Available from: http://www.astrocyte.in/text.asp?2018/4/4/221/244301

  Introduction Top

Hip surgery, especially in elderly with other comorbid conditions, is followed by particularly severe pain. This surgery entails massive nociceptive inputs from richly innervated joint tissue. Adequate postoperative pain relief improves the surgical outcome in terms of reduced morbidity, reduced hospital stay in the postoperative period, and reduced postoperative organ dysfunction due to lower surgical stress.[1] One of the important goals of postoperative analgesia is to reduce opioid dose, and hence, side effects (nausea, itching, vomiting, respiratory depression, and ileus), leading to a delay in patient mobilization.[2] When compared with pharmacological techniques, many regional analgesic techniques, such as epidural block, provide superior pain relief, may favorably influence outcomes with regard to blood loss and thromboembolic events, and can lead to substantial reduction of surgical stress responses.[3] However, epidural block is associated with complications such as backache, headache, urinary retention, epidural hematoma, etc. The psoas compartment block, also called lumbar paravertebral block (PVB), blocks the nerves of the lumbar plexus, and is an alternative approach which may avoid many side-effects associated with epidural block, especially with regards to bleeding disorders and anticoagulation therapy.[4]

This study was undertaken to compare the efficacy of psoas compartment block and lumbar epidural regarding the ease of administration, degree of pain relief, side-effects, and complications.

  Materials and Methods Top

The study was a prospective, randomized, comparative study of 60 ASA grade I-II patients who were scheduled for unilateral hip surgery in the department of Anaesthesia in a tertiary care teaching hospital after obtaining approval from the ethics committee of the institution and informed consent from patients. All patients underwent a detailed pre-anesthetic examination, and were advised to fast overnight and to take tablet alprazolam 0.25 mg on the night before the surgery. On the morning of the surgery, patients were asked to take their routine medication for coexisting conditions. They were assigned to either psoas compartment (P) or epidural (E) group using a block randomization technique with a block size of 4.

Patient's heart rate, electrocardiogram (ECG), and noninvasive blood pressure were recorded, and intravenous line was started with an 18-Gauge cannula. Patients were preloaded with 10–15 ml/kg body weight Ringer's lactate solution before the procedure. They were supported in sitting position, while those who were unable to sit were positioned in a lateral decubitus position for administering the blocks. After ensuring all standard aseptic precautions, the epidural catheter and psoas compartment catheter were placed by the same operator in patients of groups E and P respectively. In Group E, after subcutaneous local anesthetic infiltration, an 18-G Tuohy needle was inserted in the L3-4 intervertebral space and the epidural space was located with a loss of resistance to air technique. A multiorifice catheter (Portex) was inserted and advanced 3–5 cm into the epidural space. A test dose of 3 ml 2% lignocaine and 1:200000 epinephrine was injected through the catheter. This was followed by a spinal subarachnoid block, which was given using a 25-G spinal needle in L3-4 or L2-3 space, and 2.2 to 3 ml 0.5% bupivacaine and 10 μg of fentanyl was injected intrathecally. In group P, the puncture site for psoas compartment block was located in the following manner: a mark was made on the upper border of the spinous process of L4 vertebra on the operative side and 2 cm lateral to this point was the puncture site [Figure 1]. Local anesthetic was infiltrated subcutaneously at this site, and an 18-G Tuohy needle was inserted in the parasagittal plane parallel to the midline and the transverse process was located. The needle was then advanced off the superior border of transverse process to a depth of 1 cm, and conformation of psoas compartment was made using loss of resistance to air technique with a low friction syringe. The catheter was then introduced and advanced to a depth of 3–5 cm in the psoas compartment and secured by tunneling it subcutaneously [Figure 2]. The subarachnoid block was then administered in a similar manner as in group E. Regional anesthesia procedure time, i.e. time from positioning the patient to catheter fixation in both techniques, and the number of attempts required was noted.
Figure 1: Location of Puncture Site for Psoas Compartment Block.

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Figure 2: Lumbar Paravertebral Catheter in the Psoas Compartment.

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In both groups, heart rate, noninvasive blood pressure, and SpO2 were recorded at regular intervals. The level of sensory blockade was assessed using loss of pinprick sensation. Patients were observed for discomfort, nausea, vomiting, shivering, pain, bradycardia, or any other side-effects. Intravenous fluids were administered in the form of Ringer's lactate, colloids, and blood as per estimated blood loss during the surgery. Two hours after administering subarachnoid block, the patients were given the study drug. Group P patients were given 10 ml of 0.5% bupivacaine in the psoas compartment using the previously placed catheter in paravertebral space and group E patients were given 10 ml of 0.25% bupivacaine through the epidural catheter. The bupivacaine infusion was started at the following rates: Group P, 5 ml.h−1 of 0.25% bupivacaine and Group E, 5 ml.h−1 of 0.125% bupivacaine using an elastomeric infusion pump (Fornia). After concluding the surgery, patients were shifted to the wards for monitoring and observation. Postoperative pain was assessed using self-rating visual analog scale (VAS) ranging from 0 to 10 (0 = no pain and 10 = worst imaginable pain) at 2, 4, 8, 12, 18, and 24 h. On experiencing pain at VAS > 4, patients received injection diclofenac 75 mg intramuscularly (i.m) as the “ first rescue analgesic.” Time elapsed between the block given and the first rescue analgesia was noted and considered as the duration of analgesia. If pain was still not relieved, patients were given inj. tramadol 1.5 mg/kg i.m. Number of rescue analgesia injections received by the patient in 24 hours and the time of voiding urine were noted. The catheters in both the groups were removed after 24 h to enable the use of low molecular weight heparin for deep vein thrombosis(DVT) prophylaxis as per the hospital protocol.

Statistical analysis

To calculate the sample size and α error of 0.05 (type I error probability) and β error of 0.2 (power 80%) was accepted. Our hypothesis was to find at least a VAS difference between groups of 20 mm with a standard deviation (σ) of 25 mm during the postsurgery follow-up. Thus, a minimum sample size of 52 patients (26 patients for each group) was calculated and to reduce the margin of error thirty patients in each group were studied.

Categorical variables are presented in number and percentage (%) and continuous variables are presented as mean ± standard deviation (SD) and median. Normality of data was tested by Kolmogorov–Smirnov test. If the normality was rejected, nonparametric tests were used. Quantitative variables were compared using independent t-test/Mann–Whitney test (for nonparametric data) and qualitative variables were compared using Chi-square test/Fisher's exact test. A P value of < 0.05 was considered statistically significant. The data was entered in MS Excel spreadsheet and analyzed using Statistical Package for Social Sciences version 21 (IBM Corp, Armonk, NY, USA).

  Results Top

The two groups of patients were comparable with respect to age, sex, weight, and types of surgery [Table 1]. The highest level of sensory block achieved, as assessed by a pinprick sensation, was similar in both the groups [Table 2].
Table 1: Types of Surgery

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Table 2: Level of Sensory Block

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The procedure time (the period from skin disinfection to completion of catheter insertion) between the two groups was statistically significant. The mean time required to perform epidural block was 10.47 min while it took 14.56 min to perform psoas compartment block (P < 0.05). Hemodynamic parameters, fluids administered, and duration of surgery were comparable between the groups.

Postoperatively, patients in group E were observed to have significantly lower visual analog pain score between time points T4 and T8 (P < 0.05) [Table 3].
Table 3: Post-Operative Visual Analogue Pain Scores

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Patients in the epidural group did not receive any rescue analgesia for a mean duration of 551.11 min while patients in the paravertebral group needed analgesia after a mean duration of 427.25 min (P > 0.05). Rescue analgesia was required in 9 of 30 patients in group E and in 20 of 30 patients in group P, which was statistically significant (P < 0.05) [Table 4].
Table 4: Total Number of Rescue Analgesic Injections in First 24 h

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The mean time of voiding urine in group E was 519.6 min while in group P it was 311.0 min. Two patients in group E required catheterization in the postoperative period due to retention of urine. The difference in time was statistically significant between the two groups (P < 0.05).

  Discussion Top

Epidural analgesia after hip surgery is considered to be the gold standard for postoperative pain relief in these patients.[2] The primary site of action of local anesthetic solutions injected into the epidural space is the spinal nerve roots. Sensory blockade interrupts the transmission of both somatic and visceral painful stimuli, whereas motor blockade provides muscle relaxation with a varying degree of sympathetic blockade.[5]

Spinal and epidural anaesthesia have been shown to blunt the “stress response” to surgery, decrease intraoperative blood loss, lower the incidence of postoperative thromboembolic events, and decrease morbidity and mortality in high-risk surgical patients.[6] However, these neuraxial techniques are not without an element of risk. The complications of epidural catheterization such as high or total spinal and infections are well known. Trauma to epidural veins occurs in approximately 10% of epidural placements and the incidence of hematomas after epidural blocks is estimated at 1:190,000.[7] Neuraxial blockade at the lumbar level has been postulated to impair control of bladder function secondary to blockage of the S2 to S4 segments.[8]

Psoas compartment block is actually a block of the lumbar plexus which comprises an injection of local anesthetic in the fascial plane within the posterior aspect of the psoas major muscle. Because the roots of the lumbar plexus are located in this plane, an injection of a sufficient volume of local anesthetic in the posteromedial compartment of the psoas muscle results in block of the majority of the plexus (femoral nerve, lateral femoral cutaneous nerve, and the obturator nerve). The anterior boundary of the fascial plane that contains the lumbar plexus is formed by the fascia between the anterior two-thirds of the compartment of the psoas muscle that originates from the anterolateral aspect of the vertebral body and the posterior one-third of the muscle that originates from the anterior aspect of the transverse processes. This arrangement explains why the transverse processes are closely related to the plexus and are therefore used as the main landmark during psoas compartment block.

At present, three different approaches to perform psoas compartment block have been described: (1) Loss of resistance technique, (2) nerve stimulator-guided technique, (3) ultrasound-guided technique. We have used the loss of resistance to a low friction syringe technique as this is a simple technique to learn and does not require sophisticated equipment.

In the nerve stimulator techniques, after the localization of the nerve by the desired evoked motor response, a bolus dose is given and then the catheter is placed without confirmation of the tip position. Thus, there is inability to assess the proximity of nerve to the catheter tip position. This problem has been overcome by using stimulating catheters. Various needles such as Contiplex Tuohy, Plexolong, Stimucath, and Polyplex T systems have been described but are not readily available in India.

In the ultrasound-guided technique, the psoas muscle is imaged through the acoustic window of the transverse processes. It appears as a combination of longitudinal hyperechoic striations within a typical hypoechoic appearance. Some of the hyperechoic striations may appear particularly intense and may be interpreted as the roots of the lumbar plexus. This unreliability is due to the intramuscular connective tissue which is indistinguishable from the nerve roots at such a deep location.[9] Currently, there are very few practitioners of ultrasound-guided Lumbar plexus block. This may reflect the greater degree of skill required to perform the block.[9]

Irrespective of the technique used, it is established that the use of paravertebral blocks are safer than epidural and that complications with this technique are infrequent.[10] Most studies comparing the incidence of complications have been done for thoracic paravertebral and thoracic epidural blocks.

Hematoma following a paravertebral block has been reported to be approximately 2.4% and a risk of vascular puncture is approximately 6.8%.[11] Usually, hematoma is limited in magnitude and certainly not associated with any major symptoms. Hypotension has been reported in 4% of thoracic paravertebral blocks[11] compared to 30% in thoracic epidurals. Hypotension could be attributed to the sympathetic blockade, epidural spread, or effect of local anesthetics on the vascular tone.

Epidural or intrathecal spread has been estimated to occur between 1% and 70% in paravertebral blocks.[12],[13]

In the present study, we compared postoperative analgesia provided by 10 ml/h each of 0.25% bupivacaine epidurally and 0.5% bupivacaine given in the psoas compartment. The difference in the concentration of bupivacaine is based on the results of previous studies by various authors. The dose of bupivacaine in epidural group is lower as use of higher rate and concentration leads to hypotension. There is qualitatively a greater block of somatic nerves together with block of sympathetic chain and the rami communicans when the local anaesthetic is placed alongside the vertebral column rather than anatomically distant from it in the paravertebral space.[12] We considered and dismissed the idea of using equal doses of bupivacaine as we aimed to optimize the use of each of these two local anesthetic techniques. We were unable to use any more bupivacaine through the epidural route because of hypotension, nausea, and vomiting associated with larger doses, and decreasing the dose of bupivacaine used in the psoas compartment would have disadvantaged this group of patients.

In our study, the mean duration of analgesia (determined by the time interval to first rescue analgesic requirement) was 551.11 min in the epidural group while patients in the psoas compartment block group needed analgesia after 427.25 min (P > 0.05). However, there was a statistically significant difference between the two groups regarding the mean pain scores at 4 and 8 h postoperatively resulting in a greater number of rescue analgesics in the psoas compartment block group compared with that in the epidural group. Our findings corroborate the findings of previous studies of Bosch et al.,[4] in which the average scores on the visual analogue pain scores (VAPS) for both the procedures were comparable; however, local anesthetic and opiate consumption was significantly higher in the psoas compartment block group compared with the epidural group. Turker et al.[14] found no statistically significant difference in VAS pain scores and consumption of rescue analgesia after surgery in both groups. Surange et al.[15] reported no statistically significant differences between the groups with regard to mean pain scores in the first 48 h.

In our study, the difference in the quality of analgesia in the two groups can be explained by several factors. First, patients requiring hip replacement surgery frequently have bilateral hip joint pathology. An epidural provides effective analgesia to both hip joints. It has been reported that patients with a psoas compartment block often experience pain in the contralateral joint due to positioning postoperatively (abduction of hips to prevent dislocation of the prosthesis).[4] Second, patient-controlled epidural analgesia is associated with less local anesthetic consumption, more effective pain relief and improved patient acceptance.[16] One reason for this is that boluses injected epidurally spread more extensively than a continuous infusion.[17] Similarly, patient-controlled peripheral (nerve or plexus) analgesia leads to better pain relief and lower opiate consumption.[17] Third, a large volume of local anesthetic is required to block the entire lumbar plexus with a psoas compartment block, which often requires dilution of the local anesthetic to stay below the toxic dose. Consequently, the quality of the block may decrease. In an epidural block, volumes and bupivacaine concentrations are usually within safe limits.[4] Fourth, it has been demonstrated that there are anatomical variations in the formation of the lumbar plexus in more than 40% of cadavers. In 12%, an accessory obturator nerve arising from the anterior divisions of the L3 and L4 nerve roots which does not lie in close approximation to the obturator nerve was present. This anatomical variation can explain inadequate block during hip surgery.[18] Finally, the lumbar plexus lies within the psoas muscle substance, and thus, the psoas compartment provides only an indirect access to the lumbar plexus.[18] Capdevila et al.[19] demonstrated radiologically that the catheter tip lies within the psoas major muscle in 74% of the patients and between the psoas and quadratus lumborum muscles (psoas compartment) in 22% of the patients. With ultrasonic guidance also, the lumbar plexus is a deep structure that is difficult to visualize. Further development of ultrasound-guided placement of psoas compartment blocks may well improve the success rate and quality of the block, decrease the amount of local anesthetic required and minimize complications.[20]

Several other authors have also studied the efficacy of psoas compartment block for providing pain relief after hip surgery. Touray et al.[21] conducted a systematic review of the efficacy and safety of psoas compartment block for anesthesia and postoperative analgesia for hip and knee surgery. Amiri et al.[22] showed that, by preserving hemodynamic stability, lumbar plexus block in conjunction with a light sedation could be considered as a reliable, prudent, and satisfying anesthetic option in the management of hip fractures in the elderly patients with three beneficial characteristics of safety, effectiveness, and acceptability.

In the present study, we noted one advantage in the psoas compartment block group that the mean time of voiding urine in the postoperative period was much longer in the epidural group compared to the psoas compartment block group. This difference was both statistically and clinically significant. Two patients in the epidural group required urinary catheterization in the postoperative period due to retention of urine. This is explained by neuraxial blockade at the lumbar level that impairs bladder control secondary to the blockage of S2–S4 segments. No patient in the psoas compartment block group needed urinary catheterization.

  Conclusions Top

The mean duration for postoperative analgesia in the epidural group was comparable to the paravertebral group. The average scores on the visual analogue pain scale for both the techniques were comparable except at 4 and 8 h postoperatively, resulting in greater number of rescue analgesics in the psoas compartment group than the epidural group. Thus, from this study we conclude that, while either of the two techniques can be used in patients undergoing hip surgery, psoas compartment block should be considered as an alternative to epidural block in patients with relative contraindications to neuraxial block, such as those on anticoagulant therapy for DVT prophylaxis.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Kehlet H, Holte K. Effect of postoperative analgesia on surgical outcome. Br J Anaesth 2001;87:62-72.  Back to cited text no. 1
Anastase DM, Cionac Florescu S, Munteanu AM, Ursu T, Stoica CI. Analgesic Techniques in Hip and Knee Arthroplasty. Anesthesiol Res Pract 2014;2014:569319.  Back to cited text no. 2
Covert CR, Fox GS. Anaesthesia for hip surgery in the elderly. Can J Anaesth 1989;36:311-9.  Back to cited text no. 3
Bosch JC, Smith FJ, Becker PJ. Analgesia after total hip replacement: Epidural versus psoas compartment block. South Afr J Anaesth Analg 2007;13:21-5.  Back to cited text no. 4
Cousins M, Veering B. Epidural neural blockade. In: Cousins M, Bridenbaugh P, editors. Neural Blockade in Clinical Anesthesia and Management of Pain. 3rd ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott-Raven; 1998. pp 243-320.  Back to cited text no. 5
Barash PJ. Clinical anesthesia. 6th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins; 2009. pp 927.  Back to cited text no. 6
Wulf H. Epidural anaesthesia and spinal hematoma. Can J Anaesth 1996;43:1260-71.  Back to cited text no. 7
Baldini G, Bagry H, Aprikian A, Carli F. Postoperative urinary retention: Anesthetic and perioperative considerations. Anesthesiology 2009;110:1139-57.  Back to cited text no. 8
Karmakar M, Ho H, Li X, Kwok W, Tsang T, Ngan Kee W. Ultrasound-guided lumbar plexus block through the acoustic window of the lumbar ultrasound trident. Br J Anaesth 2008;100:533-7.  Back to cited text no. 9
Dauri M, Celidonio L, Fabbi E, Nahmias S, Faria S, Coniglione F, et al. Comparing continuous lumbar plexus block, continuous epidural block and continuous lumbar plexus block with a parasacral sciatic nerve block on postoperative analgesia after hip arthroplasty. J Anesth Clinic Res 2011;2:177.  Back to cited text no. 10
Naja Z, Lönnqvist PA. Somatic paravertebral nerve blockade: Incidence of failed block and complications. Anaesthesia 2001;56:1181-201.  Back to cited text no. 11
Richardson J, Sabanathan S, Jones J, Shah RD, Cheema S, Mearns AJ. A prospective randomized comparison of preoperative and continuous balanced epidural or paravertebral bupivacaine on post-thoracotomy pain, pulmonary function and stress responses. Br J Anaesth 1999;83:387-92.  Back to cited text no. 12
Dhole S, Mehta Y, Saxena H, Juneja R, Trehan N. Comparison of continuous thoracic epidural and paravertebral blocks for postoperative analgesia after minimally invasive direct coronary artery bypass surgery. J Cardiothorac Vasc Anesth 2001;15:288-92.  Back to cited text no. 13
Turker G, Uckunkaya N, Yavascaoglu B, Yilmazlar A, Ozcelik S. Comparison of the catheter-technique psoas compartment block and epidural block for analgesia in partial hip replacement surgery. Acta Anaesth Scand 2003;47:30-6.  Back to cited text no. 14
Surange P, Rama Mohan C. Comparative Evaluation of Continuous Lumbar Paravertebral Versus Continuous Epidural Block for Post-Operative Pain Relief in Hip Surgeries. Anesthesiol Pain Med 2012;1:178-83.  Back to cited text no. 15
Wu CL. Acute postoperative pain. In: Miller RD, editor. 6th ed. Miller's anesthesia. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2005. pp 2729-62.  Back to cited text no. 16
Kaynar AM, Shankar KB. Epidural infusion: Continuous or bolus? Anesth Analg 1999;89:534.  Back to cited text no. 17
Sim IW, Webb T. Anatomy and anaesthesia of the lumbar somatic plexus. Anaesth Intensive Care 2004;32:178-87.  Back to cited text no. 18
Capdevila X, Macaire P, Dadure C, Choquet O, Biboulet P, Ryckwaert Y, et al. Continuous psoas compartment block for postoperative analgesia after total hip arthroplasty: New landmarks, technical guidelines, and clinical evaluation. Anesth Analg 2002;94:1606-13.  Back to cited text no. 19
Marhofer P, Greher M, Kapral S. Ultrasound guidance in regional anaesthesia. Br J Anaesth 2005;94:7-17.  Back to cited text no. 20
Touray ST, de Leeuw MA, Zuurmond WWA, Perez RSGM. psoas compartment block for lower extremity surgery: A meta-analysis. Br J Anaesth 2008;101:750-60.  Back to cited text no. 21
Amiri HR, Zamani MM, Safari S. Lumbar plexus block for management of hip surgeries. Anesthesiol Pain Med 2014;4:e19407.  Back to cited text no. 22


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]

  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4]


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