Conus medullaris trauma: is there a greater risk in parturients?

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.21454/rjaic.7518.242.ver

Julie Verkooijen, Hilde Coppejans, Els Mertens, Vera Saldien, Marcel Vercauteren

Antwerp University Hospital, Department of Anaesthesia, Edegem, Belgium

Background. There is some evidence that anaesthetists often perform neuraxial blocks at a higher lumbar interspace than intended. It may be questioned whether parturients are at greater risk for neurological damage when the dura is perforated at a more cephalad interspace than L2-L3.
Methods. Thirty-six patients scheduled for elective Caesarean delivery under CSE anaesthesia were selected for study. Using a B-D Durasafe Adjustable needle combination, the skin-to-epidural distance and the width of the epidural space were measured and matched with 36 female patients undergoing the same anaesthetic technique for orthopaedic procedures.
Results. Pregnant patients had a higher bodyweight (77 vs. 67 kg, p = 0.007) than those scheduled for orthopaedic surgery. The skin-to-epidural distance was similar in both groups (5.3 vs. 5.1 cm, p = 0.3). The width of the epidural space was 1.1 mm larger in parturients (8.2 vs. 7.1 mm, p = 0.04). More patients in this group had tip-to-tip distances exceeding 10 mm (25 vs. 12%).
Conclusion. The greater epidural space or tip-to-tip distance between the epidural and spinal needle points in term parturients results in a lower margin of safety with respect to the distance from the dura to spinal cord or conus medullaris. Puncturing the correct interspace is, therefore, of crucial importance in pregnant patients.
Keywords: anaesthesia, spinal, epidural, complications, neurological, conus medullaris

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