Currently, there is limited evidence to support the safety of neuraxial catheters in neonates. Safety concerns have been cited as a major barrier to performing large randomized trials in this population. The main objective of this study is to examine the safety of neuraxial catheters in neonates across multiple institutions. Specifically, we sought to determine the incidence of overall and individual complications encountered when neuraxial catheters were used for postoperative analgesia in neonates.METHODS:
This was an observational study that used the Pediatric Regional Anesthesia Network database. Complications and adverse events were defined by the presence of at least 1 of the following intraoperative and/or postoperative factors: catheter malfunction (dislodgment/occlusion), infection, block abandoned (unable to place), block failure (no evidence of block), vascular (blood aspiration/hematoma), local anesthetic systemic toxicity, excessive motor block, paresthesia, persistent neurologic deficit, and other (e.g., intra-abdominal misplacement, tremors). Additional analyses were performed to identify the use of potentially toxic doses of local anesthetics.RESULTS:
The study cohort included 307 neonates with a neuraxial catheter. There were 41 adverse events and complications recorded, resulting in an overall incidence of complications of 13.3% (95% confidence interval, 9.8%–17.4%). Among the complications, catheter malfunction, catheter contamination, and vascular puncture were common. None of the complications resulted in long-term complications and/or sequelae, resulting in an estimated incidence of any serious complications of 0.3% (95% confidence interval, 0.08%–1.8%). There were 120 of 307 patients who received intraoperative and/or postoperative infusions consistent with a potentially toxic local anesthetic dose in neonates. The incidence of potentially toxic local anesthetic infusion rates increased over time (P = 0.008).CONCLUSIONS:
Neuraxial catheter techniques for intraoperative and postoperative analgesia appear to be safe in neonates. Further studies to confirm our results and to establish the efficacy of these techniques across different surgical procedures are required. We suggest that each center that uses neuraxial anesthesia techniques in neonates closely evaluate the dose limits for local anesthetic agents and develop rigorous quality assurance methods to ensure potentially toxic doses are not used.