Cauda Equina Syndrome After Continuous Spinal Anesthesia

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Four cases of cauda equina syndrome occurring after continuous spinal anesthesia are reported. In all four cases, there was evidence of a focal sensory block and, to achieve adequate analgesia, a dose of local anesthetic was given that was greater than that usually administered with a single-injection technique. We postulate that the combination of maldistribution and a relatively high dose of local anesthetic resulted in neurotoxic injury. Suggestions that may reduce the potential for neurotoxicity are discussed. Use of a lower concentration and a “ceiling” or maximum dose of local anesthetic to establish the block should be considered. If maldistribution of local anesthetic is suspected (as indicated by a focal sensory block), the use of maneuvers to increase the spread of local anesthetic is recommended. If such maneuvers prove unsuccessful, the technique should be abandoned.

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