Maxillary nerve blocks in horses: an experimental comparison of surface landmark and ultrasound-guided techniques



      The aim of this preliminary proof-of-concept study was to evaluate and compare the success and complication rate of infiltration of the maxillary nerve of cadaver heads using previously described surface landmarks, standard ultrasound and a novel needle guidance positioning ultrasound system (SonixGPS).

      Study design

      Prospective, anatomical, method-comparison study.


      Thirty-eight equine cadaver heads.


      Twenty-six veterinary students performed the three methods consecutively on cadaver heads using an 18 gauge, 8.9 cm spinal needle and 0.5 mL iodinated contrast medium. Computed tomography was used to quantify success (deposition of contrast in contact with the maxillary nerve) and complication rate (contrast identified within surrounding vasculature or periorbital structures) associated with each method.


      Perineural injection of the maxillary nerve was attempted 76 times, with an overall success rate of 65.8% (50/76) and complication rate of 53.9% (41/76). Success rates were 50% (13/26) with surface landmark, 65.4% (17/26) with standard ultrasound guidance and 83.3% (20/24) with SonixGPS guidance approaches (Fisher's exact test, p=0.046). No significant difference in complication rate was found between the three methods.


      Ultrasound-guided maxillary nerve blocks were significantly more successful than surface landmark approaches when performed by inexperienced operators, and the highest success rate was achieved with guidance positioning system (GPS) needle guidance.

      Clinical relevance

      Local anaesthesia of the equine maxillary nerve in the fossa pterygopalatina is frequently used for diagnostic and surgical procedures in the standing sedated horse. Due to vague superficial landmarks with various approaches and the need for experience via ultrasound guidance, this block remains challenging. GPS guidance may improve reliability of maxillary and other nerve blocks, and allow a smaller volume of local anaesthetic solution to be used, thereby improving specificity and reducing the potential for side effects.


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