The Pathway of Injectate Spread With the Transmuscular Quadratus Lumborum Block: A Cadaver Study

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BACKGROUND:The spread of injectate resulting from a transmuscular quadratus lumborum (TQL) block and a transverse oblique paramedian (TOP) TQL block has never been examined. The aim of this cadaveric study was to investigate by which pathway the injectate spreads cephalad into the thoracic paravertebral space and which nerves were dyed by the injectate cephalad and caudad to the diaphragm when performing a TQL and a TOP TQL block. We also aimed to investigate whether the thoracic and lumbar sympathetic trunks as well as the lumbar plexus were covered by the injectate.METHODS:Ultrasound-guided bilateral TQL and TOP TQL injections were administered in 8 cadavers. A total of 16 injections were performed. With the TQL injection, the curvilinear transducer was oriented in the transverse plane above the iliac crest at the posterior axillary line to identify the Shamrock sign. With the TOP TQL injection, the same transducer was placed with a TOP orientation 3 cm lateral to the L2 spinous process to identify the L2 transverse process and the adjoining quadratus lumborum muscle. For both techniques, the needle was advanced in-plane to the transducer, with the end point in the interfascial plane between the quadratus lumborum and psoas major muscles. Thirty milliliters of dye solution was injected bilaterally for each technique. The spread of the dye was evaluated by subsequent dissection.RESULTS:In all successful injections, the dye was seen to spread into the thoracic paravertebral space and the intercostal spaces to surround the somatic nerves and the thoracic sympathetic trunk. The main pathway of spread of injectate was posterior to the medial and lateral arcuate ligaments. Caudad to the diaphragm, the injected dye surrounded the subcostal, iliohypogastric, and ilioinguinal nerves in all cases, whereas the genitofemoral and lateral femoral cutaneous nerves were dyed in a varying degree. No dye was seen to surround the lumbar plexus, femoral nerve, or lumbar sympathetic trunk. The pattern of spread was similar with the TQL and TOP TQL injections.CONCLUSIONS:The spread of injectate with the TQL and TOP TQL approaches is cephalad from the lumbar point of administration between the quadratus lumborum and psoas major muscles, predominantly via a pathway posterior to the arcuate ligaments and into the thoracic paravertebral space to reach the somatic nerves and the thoracic sympathetic trunk in the intercostal and paravertebral spaces. The lumbar plexus and lumbar sympathetic trunk are not affected.

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