BACKGROUND It is believed that local anesthetic injected to obtain circumferential spread around nerves produces a more rapid onset and successful blockade after some ultrasound-guided peripheral nerve blocks. However, evidence demonstrating this point is limited only to the popliteal sciatic nerve block, which is relatively easy to perform by via a high-frequency linear transducer. In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that multiple injections of local anesthetic to make circumferential spread would improve the rate of sensory and motor blocks compared with a single-injection technique for ultrasound-guided subgluteal sciatic nerve block, which is considered a relatively difficult block conducted with a low-frequency, curved-array transducer. METHODS Ninety patients undergoing knee surgery were divided randomly into 2 groups to receive the ultrasound-guided subgluteal approach to sciatic nerve block with 20 mL of 1.5% mepivacaine with epinephrine. For group M (the multiple-injection technique), the local anesthetic was injected to create circumferential spread around the sciatic nerve without limitation on the number of needle passes. For group S (the single-injection technique), the number of needle passes was limited to 1, and the local anesthetic was injected to create spread along the dorsal surface of the sciatic nerve, during which no adjustment of the needle tip was made. Sensory and motor blockade were assessed in double-blind fashion for 30 minutes after completion of the block. The primary outcome was sensory blockade of all sciatic components tested, including tibial, superficial peroneal, and sural nerves at 30 minutes after injection. RESULTS Data from 86 patients (43 in each group) were analyzed. Block execution took more time for group M than group S. The proportion of patients with complete sensory blockade of all sciatic components at 30 minutes after injection was significantly larger for group M than group S (41.9% vs 16.3%, P = 0.018). Complete motor blockade of foot and toes extension also was observed more frequently in group M than in group S (67.4% vs 34.9%, P = 0.005 and 51.2% vs 25.6%, P = 0.027, respectively). CONCLUSIONS When ultrasound-guided subgluteal sciatic nerve block is conducted, multiple injections of local anesthetic to make a circumferential spread around the sciatic nerve improve the rate of sensory and motor blocks compared with a single injection.