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Comparison of Technical and Block Characteristics of Different Combined Spinal and Epidural Anesthesia Techniques
  1. Risto Puolakka, M.D.,
  2. Mikko T. Pitkänen, M.D., Ph.D. and
  3. Per H. Rosenberg, M.D., Ph.D.
  1. From the Department of Anaesthesiology, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Töölö Hospital, Helsinki, Finland.
  1. Reprint requests: Risto Puolakka, M.D., Department of Anaesthesiology, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Töölö Hospital, Topeliuksenkatu 5, PO Box 266, FIN-00029 HYKS, Helsinki, Finland.


Background and Objectives The combined spinal and epidural (CSE) technique can reduce or eliminate some of the disadvantages of spinal and epidural anesthesia, while still preserving their advantages. CSE anesthesia is now commonly performed with a single-segment needle-through-needle technique; however, this technique involves some controversies about needle handling and the risk of catheter migration. To avoid some of these potential problems, special CSE sets have been produced. In the present study, 2 of these sets were compared with the traditional double-segment technique.

Methods Ninety patients undergoing orthopedic surgery of the lower extremity were randomly allocated into 3 groups of equal size: Group 1, CSE set with an interlocking device between the spinal and epidural needle; group 2, CSE set with a “backeye” at the epidural needle curve for the passage of the spinal needle; group 3, double-segment technique. All epidural needles were 18-gauge, and spinal needles were 27-gauge with a pencil-point tip. In groups 1 and 2, the puncture was performed at the L3-4 interspace, and in group 3 the epidural catheter was first inserted at the L2-3 interspace followed by spinal puncture one interspace lower. Hyperbaric 0.5% bupivacaine, 2 mL, was used for the spinal block, and 4 mL of 2% lidocaine with epinephrine through the epidural catheter was used as a test dose. The block performance characteristics were recorded, and the level of analgesia was studied in a blinded fashion. Postoperatively, a bolus of epidural morphine 2 to 4 mg was used for the control of postoperative pain. All patients were interviewed on the 1st and the 7th postoperative days. Afterwards, the needles and catheters were examined by microscopy.

Results The frequency of the successful CSE block was higher in groups 3 (100%) and 2 (90%) than in group 1 (63%) (P < .05). The mean duration of successful block performance, as well as the median level of analgesia, were similar in all the groups. One case of epidural catheter migration intrathecally was observed (group 1). Postoperative nausea and vomiting occurred in 23% of patients, and the incidence of postdural puncture headache was 2.2%. The incidence of backache at the puncture site was similar in the groups. Microscopy showed 6 distorted spinal needle tips (all in group 1), but no material damage to the epidural catheters.

Conclusions The use of the CSE sets does not seem to save time compared with the double-segment technique. Technical problems, unsuccessful CSE block, and damaged spinal needle tip were noted relatively often with the interlocking CSE set. Anesthetic characteristics in the successful blocks were similar with the different techniques.

  • Combined spinal and epidural anesthesia
  • Technique
  • Microscopy

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