Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Differential Epidural Block: Does the Choice of Local Anesthetic Matter?
  1. Lee J. White, M.D.*,,
  2. Rom A. Stevens, M.D.,
  3. David Beardsley, M.D.,
  4. Paul J. Teague, M.D. and
  5. Tzu-Cheg Kao, Ph.D.
  1. *From the Departments of Anesthesiology, Georgetown University Hospital, Washington, DC, and
  2. Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland
  1. Reprint requests: James Lee White, M.D., Department of Anesthesiology, Georgetown University Hospital, Washington, DC 20007.


Background and Objectives It is well established that spinal anesthesia results in a differential block to the sensations of pinprick and cold temperature discrimination. However, the existence of differential block during epidural anesthesia has not always been accepted. Recently, it has been shown that lumbar epidural anesthesia with chloroprocaine and lidocaine produces a differential block to pinprick and cold sensation. The purpose of this study was to determine if the choice of local anesthetic used for epidural anesthesia has any influence on the relative levels of anesthesia, analgesia, and cold sensation.

Methods The authors studied nine healthy subjects; each was studied three times and received one of three local anesthetics (0.75% bupivacaine, 2% lidocaine, and 3% chloroprocaine) via an epidural catheter placed into the second or third lumbar epidural space. The authors tested the following modalities compared to an unblocked dermatome: anesthesia, loss of sensation to pinprick; analgesia, loss of an equally sharp sensation to pinprick; and cold sensation, loss of cold sensation to alcohol.

Results Twenty minutes after injection of the local anesthetic, zones of differential sensory block existed for all three agents tested. Anesthesia and analgesia were the most caudad and cephalad, respectively, while loss-to-cold sensation was found to be between these two levels. There was no significant difference in the dermatomal level achieved among the three local anesthetics tested. Sensory testing data observed 10 minutes later showed that no significant change had occurred.

Conclusions This study reaffirms the existence of differential sensory block during epidural anesthesia and establishes that the observed differential block appears to be independent of the local anesthetic used.

  • anesthetic techniques
  • epidural
  • anesthetics
  • local
  • lidocaine
  • chloroprocaine
  • bupivacaine
  • differential block

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • This study was supported by HSTEC Grant #92004.

    The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not represent official policy of the Navy Medical Department, the Uniformed Services University, or the Department of Defense.