AbstractBackgroundBleeding into the vertebral canal causing a spinal haematoma (SH) is a rare but serious complication to central neuraxial blocks (CNB). Of all serious complications to CNBs such as meningitis, abscess, cardiovascular collapse, and nerve injury, neurological injury associated with SH has the worst prognosis for permanent harm. Around the turn of the millennium, the first guidelines were published that aimed to reduce the risk of this complication. These guidelines are based on known risk factors for SH, rather than evidence from randomised, controlled trials (RCTs). RCTs, and therefore meta-analysis of RCTs, are not appropriate for identifying rare events. Analysing published case reports of rare complications may at least reveal risk factors and can thereby improve management of CNBs. The aims of the present review were to analyse case reports of SH after CNBs published between 1994 and 2015, and compare these with previous reviews of case reports.MethodsMEDLINE and EMBASE were used for identifying case reports published in English, German, or Scandinavian languages, using appropriate search terms. Reference lists were also scrutinised for case reports. Twenty different variables from each case were specifically searched for and filled out on an Excel spreadsheet, and incidences were calculated using the number of informative reports as denominator for each variable.ResultsAltogether 166 case reports on spinal haematoma after CNB published during the years between 1994 and 2015 were collected. The annual number of case reports published during this period almost trebled compared with the two preceding decades. This trend continued even after the first guidelines on safe practice of CNBs appeared around year 2000, although more cases complied with such guidelines during the second half of the observation period (2005–2015) than during the first half. Three types of risk factors dominated:(1)Patient-related risk factors such as haemostatic and spinal disorders, (2) CNB-procedure-related risks such as complicated block, (3) Drug-related risks, i.e. medication with antihaemostatic drugs.Conclusions and implicationsThe annual number of published cases of spinal haematoma after central neuraxial blocks increased during the last two decades (1994–2015) compared to previous decades. Case reports on elderly women account for this increase.Antihaemostatic drugs, heparins in particular, are still major risk factors for developing post-CNB spinal bleedings. Other risk factors are haemostatic and spinal disorders and complicated blocks, especially “bloody taps”, whereas multiple attempts do not seem to increase the risk of bleeding. In a large number of cases, no risk factor was reported. Guidelines issued around the turn of the century do not seem to have affected the number of published reports. In most cases, guidelines were followed, especially during the second half of the study period. Thus, although guidelines reduce the risk of a post-CNB spinal haematoma, and should be strictly adhered to in every single case, they are no guarantee against such bleedings to occur.
Scandinavian Journal of Pain – de Gruyter
Published: Apr 1, 2017
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