Use of Sequential Electrical Nerve Stimuli (SENS) for Location of the Sciatic Nerve and Lumbar Plexus

William F. Urmey, Paolo Grossi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and Objectives: Conventional electrical stimulation has been done by continuous adjustment of current amplitude at a single, set pulse duration (conventionally, 0.1 ms). This study evaluated a novel technique for nerve location by utilization of a peripheral-nerve stimulator (PNS) programmed to deliver sequential electrical nerve stimuli (SENS). A repeating series of alternating sequential pulses of 0.1, 0.3, and 1.0 ms at 1/3-second period intervals between pulses were generated so that at a greater distance from the nerve, only higher-duration pulses would stimulate the targeted nerve and result in 1 or 2 motor responses (MR) per second. Three MR per second at 0.5 mA or less signified the conventional endpoint for nerve location (≤0.5 mA, 0.1 ms) because that value indicated that the 0.1-ms pulse was effective. The conventional 0.1-ms pulse served as a built-in control to which the SENS was compared. Methods: Sixteen sciatic/psoas blocks were performed on 8 patients. Nerve location was by SENS, with an 80-mm block needle. Needle advance began at 1.0 mA until MR. If 1 or 2 MR/s occurred, the needle was advanced until 3 MR/s were obtained. When 3 MR/s occurred at 0.5 mA or less, needle position was fixed (final position), and mA further decreased until MR disappeared. Two digital video cameras separately recorded needle depth and MR for analysis. Final needle position was designated as zero, and distance was calculated relative to it. Results: In 12 of 16 of the performed blocks, SENS resulted in advanced notification (1 or 2 MR/s), which yielded additional visual feedback compared with control before final nerve location and, thus, increased range. In 15 of 16 blocks, MR did not disappear, once elicited, through final needle location. Conclusions: SENS resulted in increased sensitivity without compromising specificity of nerve location.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)463-469
Number of pages7
JournalRegional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2006


  • Electrical stimulation
  • Nerve location
  • Nerve stimulation
  • Peripheral nerve

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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