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Misplacement of a Psoas Compartment Catheter in the Subarachnoid Space
  1. Rainer J Litz, M.D.,
  2. Oliver Vicent, M.D.,
  3. Diana Wiessner, M.D. and
  4. Axel R. Heller, M.D., Ph.D., D.E.A.A.
  1. From the Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine, University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus (R.J.L., O.V., A.R.H.), Dresden, Germany
  2. Department of Urology, University Hospital (D.W.), Dresden, Germany
  1. Reprint requests: Rainer J. Litz, M.D., Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine, University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus, Fetscherstrasse 74, D-01307, Dresden, Germany. E-mail: rainer.litz{at}


Background and Objectives: This case report describes an unusual cause of misplacement of an indwelling catheter in the subarachnoid space after primary psoas compartment block in a patient undergoing total knee arthroplasty.

Case Report: A 67-year-old woman presenting for total knee joint replacement received a combination of continuous psoas compartment block and sciatic nerve block. Neurostimulation and additional ultrasound guidance were used for identification of the lumbar plexus. After elicitation of a quadriceps motor response, a negative aspiration test, and an uneventful test dose, 20 mL ropivacaine 0.375% and 20 mL mepivacaine 1% were injected. Despite difficult ultrasound conditions because of intestinal air, local anesthetic spread was observed paravertebrally at the medial border of the psoas muscle as usual. A catheter was then advanced 7 cm through the insulated directional puncture needle. An additional sciatic nerve block was performed by using Labat's approach. Ten minutes after injection unilateral sensory block was noted and surgery was started. After uneventful surgery, bilateral sensory block to the T4 level and complete motor block in both lower limbs was detected. A second aspiration test was negative, and an epidural block was suspected. For verification of the catheter tip location, a computed tomography scan with contrast dye was performed revealing catheter placement in the subarachnoid space. The catheter was removed and showed a kink about 7 cm from the tip. After regression of the neuraxial block, lumbar plexus block persisted for another 2 hours.

Conclusion: An additional test dose via the catheter is recommended if the indwelling catheter is inserted after injection of the local anesthetics through the puncture needle. If epidural anesthesia occurs, an x-ray of the catheter is advisable because negative aspiration via catheter does not rule out subarachnoid catheter location.

  • Complication
  • Lumbar plexus block
  • Misplacement
  • Radiographic verification
  • Ultrasonic guidance

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  • Presented at the German Congress of Anaesthesiologists, Munich, April 9-12, 2003.