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Table of Contents
Year : 2014  |  Volume : 30  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 444-446

Subarachnoid space needle manipulations for successful block

Department of Anesthesiology, School of Medicine, Wayne State University, Detroit Medical Center, Detroit, Michigan, USA

Date of Web Publication22-Jul-2014

Correspondence Address:
Deepak Gupta
Department of Anesthesiology, Wayne State University, School of Medicine, Box No. 162, 3990 John R, Detroit, MI 48201
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0970-9185.137303

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How to cite this article:
Gupta D. Subarachnoid space needle manipulations for successful block. J Anaesthesiol Clin Pharmacol 2014;30:444-6

How to cite this URL:
Gupta D. Subarachnoid space needle manipulations for successful block. J Anaesthesiol Clin Pharmacol [serial online] 2014 [cited 2021 Jun 18];30:444-6. Available from:


We often encounter subarachnoid block failures in spite of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) dripping at spinal needle's hub. Although rare anatomical abnormalities like spinal subdural hygroma should be considered, technique-related spinal failures technical are more common and can be easily corrected.

Anatomically, ligamentum flavum is Y-shaped structure bordering epidural space. [1] Loss of resistance technique appreciates epidural space that does not always have CSF-filled subarachnoid space anteriorly [Figure 1]. Due to gravity-related CSF-pooling in lumbar cistern, the dural sac's volume is largest at third and fourth lumbar interspaces in flexed sitting position. [2] Due to fixity to stable conus medullaris, floating cauda equina roots have been shown to cluster anteriorly and medially (away from the posterior pool of CSF in lumbar cistern) in flexed body position. [3],[4],[5]

If CSF is not flowing freely and is difficult or impossible to aspirate, it indicates Whitacre/Pencan ® (pencil point tip) needle's small eyelet (and not Quincke needle's larger-sized "eyelet" with cutting tip) is in thick dural-arachnoid sidewall [Figure 1]. To assess the location of the eyelet, the needle is rotated 90° counter-clockwise. If this rotation improves CSF flow/aspiration, the eyelet is in right sidewall and needle needs to be withdrawn a couple millimeters into the epidural space before re-directing just left to sidewall puncture. Alternatively, if 90° counter-clockwise rotation decreases or completely stops CSF flow/aspiration, the needle is in left sidewall and the re-directed dural puncture should be just right to sidewall puncture. The withdrawal of needle and re-insertion after redirection avoids delivery of anesthetic medications in the dural-arachnoid sidewall and ensures the injection of spinal anesthetics in the central CSF pool within the posterior half of lumbar cistern, away from peripherally-and-anteriorly seated cauda equina nerve roots within lumbar cistern in flexed-spine sitting position.
Figure 1: Schematic diagram to explain the understanding behind calculated re-directioning technique for spinal anesthesia/dural puncture

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Similar technique can be employed during dural puncture with combined spinal epidural (CSE) needles set wherein after withdrawing the spinal needle, the epidural needle also needs to be withdrawn few millimeters out of the epidural space for re-insertion per calculated redirection (calculation elicited from sidewall-seated spinal needle's counter-clockwise rotation). Alternatively, if the spinal needle is atraumatically brushing dural-arachnoid sidewall during true "dry tap" CSE technique, the sidedness of sidewall (right or left) can only be judged by patients' paresthesias' lateralization and subsequently following the above-mentioned epidural needle's minimal withdrawal before calculated re-direction technique. If the patient does not complain lateralized paresthesias for true "dry tap" CSE technique, sidewall's sidedness cannot be judged and calculated re-direction technique cannot be employed.

In summary, irrespective of the theoretical risk for increased post-dural-puncture headache with two dural puncture holes (sidewall and center), the benefit of successful subarachnoid block with calculated re-directioning (vs. commonly performed random re-directioning involving n number of dural puncture holes) outweighs the risks of the subarachnoid space needle manipulations.

  References Top United Kingdom: Anaesthesia UK; c2013. Anatomy relevant to epidural and subarachnoid blockade: Transverse section of an intervertebral disc showing the subarachnoid space; [about 1 screen]. Available from: [Last updated on 2004 Dec 12; Last cited on 2013 Dec 06].  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Hirasawa Y, Bashir WA, Smith FW, Magnusson ML, Pope MH, Takahashi K. Postural changes of the dural sac in the lumbar spines of asymptomatic individuals using positional stand-up magnetic resonance imaging. Spine (Phila Pa 1976) 2007;32:E136-40.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Bauer DF, Shoja MM, Loukas M, Oakes WJ, Tubbs RS. Study of the effects of flexion on the position of the conus medullaris. Childs Nerv Syst 2008;24:1043-5.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Ranger MR, Irwin GJ, Bunbury KM, Peutrell JM. Changing body position alters the location of the spinal cord within the vertebral canal: A magnetic resonance imaging study. Br J Anaesth 2008;101:804-9.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Takiguchi T, Yamaguchi S, Tezuka M, Kitajima T. Measurement of shift of the cauda equina in the subarachnoid space by changing position. Reg Anesth Pain Med 2009;34:326-9.  Back to cited text no. 5


  [Figure 1]


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