Indian Journal of Anaesthesia

: 2007  |  Volume : 51  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 438-

Thoracic epidural analgesia as an adjunct to general anaesthesia in a case of lung cyst removal in an infant

Mamta Aggarwal1, Riju Bansal2,  
1 MD Specialist, St. Stephen's Hospital, Delhi, India
2 DNB Senior Resident, St. Stephen's Hospital, Delhi, India

Correspondence Address:
Mamta Aggarwal
K-31, Plot no - 114, Indraprastha Apartments, I. P. Extension, Delhi - 110092


Paediatric thoracic and lumbar epidural analgesia is an integral part in the management of pain in neonates and children. We present a case of left lower lobe lung cyst in a 2 months old infant. The infant underwent excision of the lung cyst under general anaesthesia combined with thoracic epidural analgesia using an epidural catheter inserted via the caudal route. Analgesia was provided using 0.25% bupivacaine with 10mcg of fentanyl. No muscle relaxant was used throughout the surgery. The result showed a marked decrease in the requirement of anaesthetic drugs along with epidural analgesia, reduced surgical stress, and smooth recovery.

How to cite this article:
Aggarwal M, Bansal R. Thoracic epidural analgesia as an adjunct to general anaesthesia in a case of lung cyst removal in an infant.Indian J Anaesth 2007;51:438-438

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Aggarwal M, Bansal R. Thoracic epidural analgesia as an adjunct to general anaesthesia in a case of lung cyst removal in an infant. Indian J Anaesth [serial online] 2007 [cited 2021 Apr 11 ];51:438-438
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Full Text


It has been a relatively recent recognition that neo­nates and small children do feel pain; but because of the fear of overdose, they are under treated perioperatively. Pain associated with surgery, involving the major cavi­ties of abdomen or thorax, is severe, [1] and pain brings forth many deleterious physiological effects. It also gives rise to increase in stress response leading to catabolism and hampers early healing process. [2],[3],[4] So alleviating pain in children is very exciting and rewarding for anaesthesiologists.

Paediatric thoracic and lumbar epidural analgesia, [5],[6] combined with general anaesthesia is receiving its de­served attention as an excellent technique for a balanced intraoperative anaesthesia as well as for post-operative analgesia. [7] It decreases the requirement of intra-opera­tive anaesthetic agents, [8] enabling fast and smooth re­covery. However, this lumbar and thoracic epidural block may be technically difficult and hazardous for anatomi­cal reasons in infants. To achieve adequate analgesia for upper abdominal or thoracic surgery via caudal route as a single injection, requires a large volume of local anaesthetic agent with potential toxicity, morbidity, and even mortality. [9] We therefore, used the thoracic epidu­ral catheter via the caudal route.

 Case report

A 2-months-old female child weighing 5kg, having a left sided pneumothorax, and left lower lobe cysts was scheduled for left lower lobectomy by thoracotomy. The patient was admitted with history of fever and difficulty in breathing since 8 hours prior to admission. Preopera­tive evaluation of the baby showed decreased air entry on left side. No other detectable congenital anomalies were seen. On routine investigation, anaemia (Hb-9.2gm %) was present. Chest X-ray showed lung cysts with collapsed left lung, with mediastinal shift towards right side [Figure 1] and [Figure 2]. Patient was accepted for elective sur­gery under ASA class II.

In the preoperative evaluation, informed written consent from parents was obtained after explaining the nature of anaesthesia. The infant was allowed to be breast fed till 3 hours before surgery. Baby was pre­medicated with atropine 0.1 mg IM, and was shifted to operation theatre.

In the theatre, patient was placed on a warm mat­tress, limbs covered with cotton, and a precordial stetho­scope and pulse-oximeter probe were placed. Child was induced with halothane in increments of 0.5% up to 1% in 5 litres of oxygen, no nitrous oxide was used. Once the baby was sleepy, ECG, NIBP, and skin temperature probes were connected. Peripheral venous access was secured by 22G intravenous catheter, and intubated with 3.5 mm ID plain endotracheal tube and a pharyngeal gauze pack was inserted. Anaesthesia was maintained on IPPR with oxygen and halothane 0.5%, and no relax­ant was given. Under aseptic precautions, a 20G Portex epidural catheter was inserted through an 18G intrave­nous catheter via caudal route, placing the child in lat­eral position, and threaded up to T4 level after measur­ing the catheter from sacral hiatus to line of incision. After negative aspiration for blood and CSF, a test dose of 0.5 ml of 1% lidocaine with adrenaline was adminis­tered. A loading dose of 5 ml of bupivacaine 0.25% along with 10-mcg fentanyl ( -1 )[10] was adminis­tered after obtaining supine position and ascertaining that heart rate was stable. It was calculated using the Takasaki et al[11] formula ( -1 per no. of der­matomes to be blocked) [Figure 2].

Intraoperative parameters such as heart rate and blood pressure were noted at10-minute intervals. Inci­sion was given 20 minutes after the administration of the bolus dose. Analgesia was considered adequate in the absence of any rise in heart rate on incision. Surgery lasted 3 hours 40 minutes. One epidural top up dose of (0.25% bupivacaine 2.5 ml), was given 90 minutes after start of surgery, as wearing off of analgesia was indi­cated by rise in heart rate more than 10% of baseline. At the end of surgery, child regained consciousness within 5 minutes, and was extubated on table after ascertaining the HR, BP, RR, and colour of the child. Throughout surgery vitals were maintained. Another top up was given of 5 ml of 0.125% bupivacaine with 10mcg fenta­nyl before shifting to PICU. Next top up was required 8 hours later, and no further doses were required. Cath­eter was removed 24 hours post operatively.


Widespread acceptance of the necessity of pain relief in infants and neonates, has led to modifications of the existing modalities, chief amongst them being neuraxial block. Caudal epidural anaesthesia is the regional tech­nique of choice for surgeries below the umbilicus, and this is increasingly being used for upper abdominal and thoracic surgeries, [12],[13] in an attempt to minimize risks in term, preterm and high risk neonates. [14] To achieve ad­equate analgesia for upper abdominal or thoracic sur­gery via caudal route as a single dose would require a large volume of local anaesthetic agent with hazardous consequences. Insertion of an epidural catheter through the caudal approach is a time honored technique, and feasible as demonstrated by Ecoffey et al. [15]

In our case, we encountered no difficulty in place­ment or threading of the epidural catheter. The use of intravenous catheter for insertion of epidural catheter was similar to the technique used by Gunter et al. [16] Threading of the catheter to the required distance, (in our case being T4 level), is helped by the presence of spongy, gelatinous nature of fat in neonates as described by Gunter et al, and Bosenberg et al. [16],[17] By precise placement of the epidural catheter, the dermatomes in­volved in the surgical procedure may be selectively blocked, minimizing the dose of local anaesthetic required to provide analgesia. [18]

The use of a test dose, along with aspiration was done to prevent any in advertent intravenous injection, using 0.5 ml of 1% lidocaine with adrenaline. The bolus dose of 5 ml of 0.25% bupivacaine with 10 mcg of fentanyl, and further top up doses were effective in providing adequate analge­sia intra-operatively, and post-operatively. [19] The total dose of bupivacaine administered was within the prescribed safety limits without any adverse effects. [20],[21]

The success of the epidural block in terms of anal­gesia and motor block was assessed by comparing the cardiovascular parameters (heart rate and blood pres­sure), at incision, and at 10 min intervals intra-opera­tively. The variation in these parameters was within 10% of baseline. Only one top up dose was required 90 min after the start of surgery. These findings are consistent with the studies performed by Ecoffey et al [5] , Ruston et al [6] , and Schulte-Steinberg et al [7] .

No significant intra operative complications such as, hypotension, bradycardia, or arrhythmias were noted. [22] The requirement of anaesthetics intra opera­tively was decreased. The child was extubated on table after return of consciousness, with very little cry and pain.

Based on our experience in this case, and as cited by various studies; epidural analgesia for thoracic sur­geries via catheter threaded through the caudal route in conjunction with general anaesthesia, is feasible, effec­tive, and safe in small infants. It reduces surgical stress, leads to decreased anaesthetic requirement, and improves recovery with early ambulation. The findings in this case report are consistent with observations in several ran­domized control trials that have been cited in literature.


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