Postoperative Apnea in a Neonate Following an Epidural Bolus Dose Through a High Thoracic Epidural Catheter

Jay Mathias, Deanna Couser, David P. Martin, Joseph D. Tobias


Regional anesthesia is being used more frequently in the practice of pediatric anesthesia including neonates and infants. While generally safe and effective, adverse effects may occur related to catheter placement or its subsequent use. We present the rare occurrence of high motor blockade with apnea following the administration of a bolus dose of the local anesthetic agent, 2-chloroprocaine, into the thoracic epidural catheter of a 4-week-old, 2.2-kg former premature neonate. The patient had an epidural catheter that had been threaded from the caudal space to the thoracic level to provide analgesia following an abdominal surgical procedure. Subsequent investigation with a standard chest radiograph revealed a higher than intended placement of the epidural catheter (T4 instead of T8-10) which resulted in a transient high motor blockade with apnea. The epidural infusion was discontinued and assisted ventilation was provided by bag-valve-mask ventilation. Immediately, the heart rate and oxygen saturation returned to baseline values, and within 5 min the patient became more active, spontaneous ventilation resumed, and a strong cry was noted. The epidural catheter was removed and the remainder of the postoperative course was unremarkable. Adverse effects of epidural anesthesia in neonates are discussed and options for identifying the correct placement of a thoracic epidural catheter are reviewed.

J Med Cases. 2021;12(12):485-490


Epidural anesthesia; Apnea; Chloroprocaine

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