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Digital or metacarpal block for finger injuries
  1. Stuart McKirdy,
  2. Simon Carley
  1. Department of Emergency Medicine, Manchester Royal Infirmary, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9WL

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    Report by Stuart McKirdy, Senior House Officer Search checked by Simon Carley, Specialist Registrar

    Clinical scenario

    A 25 year old man presents to the emergency department after a crush injury to the left middle finger. There is a laceration over the distal phalanx involving the nail bed, which is disrupted. You wish to achieve local anaesthesia to allow wound exploration and repair and wonder whether ring block or metacarpal block is the best approach.

    Three part question

    In [patients requiring local anaesthesia to the finger] is [metacarpal block better than ring block] at [minimising pain during infiltration, achieving adequate anaesthesia and achieving rapid onset]?

    Search strategy

    Medline 1966–03/00 using the OVID interface. [({exp wounds and injuries OR in-jur$.mp} AND {exp fingers OR finger$.mp OR digit$.mp}) AND {exp nerve block OR nerve OR exp anesthesia,local OR local OR ring] LIMIT to human AND english.

    Search outcome

    Altogether 66 papers were found of which 65 were irrelevant or of insufficient quality for inclusion. The one remaining paper is shown in table 8.

    Table 8


    The results of a single study must be interpreted with caution especially as practical procedures are operator dependent and high failure rates may reflect operator error rather than intrinsic problems. Metacarpal blocks may still have a role when anaesthesia is required in more than one finger, when proximal anaesthesia is needed or when the circulation to the finger is suspect.

    Clinical bottom line

    Digital nerve (ring) block is the technique of choice for emergency digital anaesthesia.

    Report by Stuart McKirdy, Senior House Officer Search checked by Simon Carley, Specialist Registrar


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