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Transient Paraplegia due to Accidental Intrathecal Bupivacaine Infiltration Following Pre-Emptive Analgesia in a Patient With Missed Sacral Dural Ectasia

Kanna, P. Rishimugesh, MS, MRCS*; Sekar, Chelliah, MD (Anaesthesia); Shetty, Ajoy Prasad, MS (Ortho), DNB (Ortho)*; Rajasekaran, Shanmughanathan, MS, MCh, FRCS, FACS, PhD*

doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e3181e91e2b
Case Reports

Study Design. A case report with review of the literature.

Objective. To highlight the need for careful magnetic resonance imaging evaluation for the presence of incidental lumbosacral dural anomalies before attempting caudal epidural interventions.

Summary of Background Data. Pre-emptive analgesia through the caudal epidural route provides good postoperative pain relief in spine surgeries. Several precautions have been advised in the literature. Presence of sacral-dural ectasia should be considered a relative contraindication for this procedure.

Methods. A 50-year old woman underwent posterior instrumented spinal fusion for L4–L5 spondylolisthesis under general anesthesia. She received single shot caudal epidural analgesia at the start of the procedure.

Results. After complete emergence from anesthesia, she had complete motor and sensory loss below the T12 spinal level, which reversed to normal neurology in 6 hours. Retrospective evaluation of the patient's magnetic resonance imaging showed an ectatic, low lying lumbosacral dural sac which had been overlooked in the initial evaluation. The drugs given by the caudal route have been accidentally administered into the thecal sac causing a brief period of neurologic deficit.

Conclusion. This unexpected complication has been reported only in the pediatric literature before. It is important to look for the presence of lumbosacral dural anomalies before planning caudal epidural injections in adults also. Sacral dural ectasia and other lumbosacral anomalies must be recognized as contraindications for caudal epidural pre-emptive analgesia for spine surgery. Other modes of postoperative pain relief should be tried in these patients.

The authors describe the occurrence of transitory complete paraplegia following an otherwise uneventful lumbar fusion surgery, due to inadvertent intrathecal infiltration of Bupivacaine into an overlooked sacral dural ectasia. The importance of careful magnetic resonance imaging evaluation for the presence of lumbosacral dural anomalies before planning caudal epidural injection is insisted.

From the Departments of *Orthopaedics, Traumatology and Spine Surgery, and †Anaesthesia, Ganga Hospital, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India.

Acknowledgment date: March 18, 2010. Revision date: April 27, 2010. Acceptance date: May 3, 2010.

The manuscript submitted does not contain information about medical device(s)/drug(s).

No funds were received in support of this work. No benefits in any form have been or will be received from a commercial party related directly or indirectly to the subject of this manuscript.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to S. Rajasekaran, MS (Ortho), MCh, FRCS, FACS, PhD, Department of Orthopaedics, Traumatology and Spine Surgery, Ganga Hospital, 313, Mettupalayam Road, Coimbatore 641043, India; E-mail:

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.