Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Generating a Learning Curve for Pediatric Caudal Epidural Blocks: An Empirical Evaluation of Technical Skills in Novice and Experienced Anesthetists
  1. Guido Schuepfer, M.D., M.B.A., H.S.G.,
  2. Christoph Konrad, M.D.,
  3. Joachim Schmeck, M.D.,
  4. Gert Poortmans, M.D.,
  5. Bruno Staffelbach, Prof., Dr. Phil. and
  6. Martin Jöhr, M.D.
  1. From the Department of Pediatric Anesthesia, Institute of Anesthesiology, Kantonsspital (G.S., M.J.), Lucerne, Switzerland; the Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care, University of Mannheim (C.K., J.S.), Mannheim, Germany; the Department of Anesthesiology, University Hospitals of Catholic University (G.P.), Leuven, Belgium; and the Institute of Economical Research, University of Zurich (B.S.), Zurich, Switzerland.
  1. Reprint requests: Guido Schuepfer, M.D., M.B.A., H.S.G., Institute of Anesthesiology, Kantonsspital, CH-6000 Lucerne 16, Switzerland. E-mail: schuepfer-zuercher{at}


Background and Objectives Learning curves for anesthesia procedures in adult patients have been determined, but no data are available on procedures in pediatric anesthesia. The aim of this study was to assess the number of caudal blocks needed to guarantee a high success rate in performing caudal epidural analgesia in children.

Methods At a teaching hospital, the technical skills of 7 residents in anesthesiology who performed caudal blocks were evaluated during 4 months using a standardized self-evaluation questionnaire. At the start of the study period, the residents had no prior experience in pediatric anesthesia or in performing caudal epidural blocks. All residents entered the pediatric rotation after a minimum of 1 year of training in adult general and regional anesthesia. The blocks were rated using a binary score. For comparison, the success rates of 8 experienced staff anesthesiologists were collected during the same period using the same self-evaluation questionnaire. Statistical analyses were performed by generating individual and institutional learning curves using the pooled data. The learning curves were calculated with the aid of a least-square fit model and 95% confidence intervals were estimated by a Monte Carlo procedure with a bootstrap technique.

Results The success rate of residents was 80% after 32 procedures (95% confidence interval of 0.59 to 1.00). The pooled success rate of the staff anesthesiologists was 0.73 (mean) with a standard deviation of 0.45, which was not statistically different from the success rate of the residents.

Conclusion High success rates in performing caudal anesthesia in pediatric patients can be acquired after a limited number of cases. Success rates of residents learning this procedure are comparable to the results of staff anesthesiologists.

  • Caudal anesthesia
  • Pediatric anesthesia
  • Learning curve
  • Regional anesthesia

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.


  • Presented at the Annual Meeting of the German Society of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, Frankfurt, Germany, July 8-13, 1998.