Advancement of epidural catheter from lumbar to thoracic space in children: Comparison between 18G and 23G catheters
OBJECTIVES To evaluate the success and degree of difficulty of inserting an epidural catheter into the caudal space in order to place its distal end at T10 in young patients. PATIENTS AND METHODS Forty-seven children up to 97 months old were studied. With the patients under general anesthesia with an orotracheal tube, a predetermined length of 18-G epidural catheter (Minipack: SYSTEM 2-Portex) was inserted to T10. X-rays were taken after surgery with 0.3 ml of iodine contrast. The catheter was considered well-placed if the distal end was between T10-T12; the approach was classified as easy, difficult or impossible. RESULTS The catheter was placed at T12-T10 on 16 occasions: 6 in L1, 3 in L2, 4 in L3, 17 in L4-L5, and 1 in S1. T10-T12 was reached in 52% of patients under 1 year of age, but in only 17% of children older than 1 year. The L4-L5 epidural space was reached with 46 of 47 catheters. Advance was easy in 41 cases, with only 16 reaching the objective. Advance was difficult in 6 cases, with only 1 reaching L1 and none reaching T10-T12. All catheters were easily removed. CONCLUSIONS It is not possible to guarantee the arrival of an 18-G epidural catheter to the thoracic epidural space by entering through the caudal route. In children over 1 year of age, the level of success decreases significantly. Easy advance of the catheter cannot be taken to be a sign of success.