Stepwise Rostrocaudal Brainstem Anesthesia as a Complication of Local Anesthesia: A Case Report

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Abstract

Iatrogenic cranial nerve palsies can rarely complicate neurosurgical, oral maxillofacial, and otolaryngological procedures. Among the most serious complications of cranial nerve palsy is upper airway obstruction, which is life threatening. We present a case of multiple cranial nerve palsies evolving rapidly in a rostrocaudal stepwise fashion after infiltration of lidocaine to repair a cerebrospinal fluid leak in a patient postoccipital craniectomy. This led to hypoxic respiratory failure requiring mechanical ventilation before resolving spontaneously. This is the first known case of accidental brainstem anesthesia secondary to lidocaine infiltration at an occipital craniectomy site and serves to caution clinicians who manage similar patients.

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