Neurologic Complications of 603 Consecutive Continuous Spinal Anesthetics Using Macrocatheter and Microcatheter Techniques

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Recent case reports of cauda equina syndrome after continuous spinal anesthesia have led to a reevaluation of the indications and applications of this regional anesthetic technique.However, few large studies have formally investigated the frequency of neurologic complications using macro- and microcatheter (smaller than 24 gauge) techniques. This retrospective review examines 603 continuous spinal anesthetics, including 127 administered through a 28-gauge microcatheter, performed between June 1987 and May 1992. The surgical procedure was orthopedic in 397 of 476 (83.4%) macrocatheter patients. All microcatheter patients were parturients. Three patients reported pain (persistent paresthesia) postoperatively. In two patients, the symptoms resolved in 4 days; the other patient was discharged 8 days postoperatively with residual foot pain. There was also one patient with aseptic meningitis and one patient with a sensory cauda equina syndrome (still present after 15 mo). There were 58 (9.6%) patients with a postdural puncture headache (PDPH), including 42 of 127 (33.1%) patients in the microcatheter group. An epidural blood patch was performed in 41 (6.8%) patients. The frequency of neurologic complications, excluding PDPH, is similar to those in published reviews. However, PDPH in microcatheter patients is more frequent than previously reported.(Anesth Analg 1997;84:1063-70)

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