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Total spinal anaesthesia as a complication of local anaesthetic test-dose administration through an epidural catheter

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We describe a case of total spinal anaesthesia, which occurred after a 3-ml lignocaine (20 mg ml−1) test dose was administered through an epidural catheter in a 79-year-old patient scheduled for gastrectomy under combined general and epidural anaesthesia.

The surgery was postponed, and the patient required admission to the intensive therapy unit. Spinal MRI from the total spinal cord did not reveal any pathology. During the next 24 h the patient recovered and after 11 days was successfully operated on under general anaesthesia. No late complications followed. We presume that during placement, the epidural catheter had migrated to the spinal canal as a result of technical difficulties.

Although controversial, we consider that administering a standard test dose of local anaesthetic via an epidural catheter is recommended, especially in high-risk patients and when epidural space identification or catheter placement poses technical difficulties. A test dose of local anaesthetic does not fully prevent complications.

Keywords: Epidural anaesthesia complications; epidural test dose; total spinal anaesthesia

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Therapy, Medical University of Gdansk, Gdansk, Poland

Publication date: October 1, 2004


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