Needle insertion forces and fluid injection pressures during targeting of nerves in a soft embalmed cadaver model

Shengli Zhang, Graeme McLeod (Lead / Corresponding author), Amy Sadler, Chumming Xia, Zihong Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Forceful needle-nerve contact and high subepineural pressures and are recognised causes of nerve damage. Pressure and force measurements are necessary to inform the mechanisms of nerve injury, build virtual simulator environments and provide operator feedback during simulation training. However, the range of pressures and forces encountered at tissue layers during targeted needle insertion and fluid injection are not known.
We built a needle that recorded in-line pressure during fluid injection and continuously measured force at the needle tip. Two anaesthetists were randomised to insert a 21 g block needle at 48 nerve sites on both sides of 3 soft embalmed Thiel cadavers. Our objective was to measure pressure and force during the course of targeted nerve injection at epimysium, in perineural tissue, on epineurium and during subepineural injection. At each interface, we infused a 0.5 ml bolus of embalming solution at a rate of 12 ml min−1 and recorded the pressure response. Force was measured continuously in the background throughout the procedure.
Pressure was greater at epineurium and within subepineurium than perineural tissue, geometric ratio (95% CI) 4.7 (3.0–7.3) kPa and 3.8 (2.5–5.7) kPa, respectively, both P < 0.0001. Force on nerve contact and on nerve penetration was greater than force in perineural tissue, geometric ratios (95% CI) 3.0 (1.9–4.7) N and 3.6 (2.2–7.5) N, respectively, both P < 0.0001. On nerve contact, 1 in 6 insertions were ≥ 5 N
Despite valid infusion pressures, anaesthetists exerted excessive force on nerves.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)511–519
Number of pages9
Issue number2
Early online date11 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


  • Simulation
  • Regional anaesthesia
  • Force
  • Pressure


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