Four cases of cauda equina syndrome occurring after continuous spinal anesthesia are reported. In all four cases, there was evidence of a focal sensory block and, to achieve adequate analgesia, a dose of local anesthetic was given that was greater than that usually administered with a single-injection technique. We postulate that the combination of maldistribution and a relatively high dose of local anesthetic resulted in neurotoxic injury. Suggestions that may reduce the potential for neurotoxicity are discussed. Use of a lower concentration and a “ceiling” or maximum dose of local anesthetic to establish the block should be considered. If maldistribution of local anesthetic is suspected (as indicated by a focal sensory block), the use of maneuvers to increase the spread of local anesthetic is recommended. If such maneuvers prove unsuccessful, the technique should be abandoned.
Address correspondence to Dr. Drasner, Department of Anesthesia, San Francisco General Hospital, Room 3s-50, 1001 Potrero, San Francisco, CA 94110.
© 1991 International Anesthesia Research Society