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Epidural loss-of-resistance biomechanics: an open pilot cadaver study

Authors McKay W, Rosser T, Kriegler S, Mohamed A

Published 6 September 2010 Volume 2010:3 Pages 101—107

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/LRA.S11932

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3


William P McKay1, Timothy Rosser1, Stefan Kriegler2, Adel Mohamed3
1Department of Anesthesia, 2Department of Radiology, 3Department of Anatomy, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada
Purpose: We measured dynamic biomechanics of loss-of-resistance (LOR) epidural placement in prone cadavers, focussing on the period immediately following LOR, to estimate forces acting on the tissue of the epidural space.
Methods: An epidural syringe with 17G Hustead needle was instrumented to track force on the plunger, pressure in the chamber, and movement of barrel and plunger. Insertions were attempted in five formalin-preserved cadavers from T2–3 to L4–5, using LOR with saline or air, and confirmed with X-ray.
Results: Sixteen insertions were successful. Soft tissues in formalin-preserved cadavers are much harder than in living humans. With continuous pressure on the plunger, fluid thrust through the needle at the point of LOR was significantly greater (P = 0.005) with saline (mean ± standard deviation [95% confidence intervals]: 19.3 ± 14.9 [8.3 to 30.3] N); than with air (0.17 ± 0.25 [0 to 0.39] N). Stress exerted on epidural tissue was similar (air = 7792 ± 920 [6986 to 8598] Pa; saline = 7378 ± 3019 [5141 to 9614] Pa); and in both cases was greater than the stress exerted by cerebrospinal fluid pushing outwardly on the dura (4800 Pa).
Conclusion: Formalin-preserved cadavers are too stiff to make them an experimental model from which we can generalize to live humans, although we were successful in entering the epidural space and testing the instrumentation for further studies on live animals or humans. Continuous pressure on the plunger while advancing the epidural needle may “blow” the dura away from the needle tip and help prevent dural puncture. Better results are seen with saline rather than air.
Keywords: epidural anesthesia, cadaver, spinal headache

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