Ultrasound-Guided Epidural Catheter Insertion in Children

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Epidural catheters (EC) are often used in pediatric patients for intraoperative and postoperative pain relief. The small anatomical structures and catheter insertion under general anesthesia make it more difficult to perform EC and to prevent damage. In this study we investigated the use of ultrasound (US) in detecting neuraxial structures during insertion and placement of EC in children. ASA I–II children scheduled for elective surgery under combined general and epidural anesthesia were studied. Patients received balanced anesthesia using sevoflurane, opioids and rocuronium. Before EC insertion US examination in a lateral position was done to visualize and identify neuraxial structures. Quality of visualization and site and depth of structures were recorded. Using a sterile kit to hold the US probe in position and enable the visualization of the neuraxial structures, an epidural cannula was inserted, using the loss of resistance technique, as the EC passed under US control to the desired level. Of 25 children, 23 were evaluated. Epidural space, ligamentum flavum, and dural structures were clearly identified and the depth to skin level estimated in all patients. Loss of resistance was visualized in all patients with a lumbar epidural approach. Correlation of US measured depth and depth of loss of resistance was 0.88. In eight of 23 patients EC could be visualized during insertion and in 11 others it could be visualized with additional US planes. US is an excellent tool to identify neuraxial structures in both infants and children. The size and the incomplete ossification of the vertebra allow exact visualization and localization of the depth of the epidural space, the loss of resistance, and all relevant neuraxial structures.

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