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J Neurosurg Spine. 2005 Jan;2(1):17-22.

Comparison of spinal and general anesthesia in lumbar laminectomy surgery: a case-controlled analysis of 400 patients.

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The Cleveland Clinic Spine Institute, The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, Ohio 44195, USA.



Despite a history of safety and efficacy, spinal anesthesia is rarely used in lumbar surgery. Application of regional anesthetics is widely preferred for lower-extremity surgery, but general anesthesia is used almost exclusively in spine surgery, despite evidence that spinal anesthesia is as safe and may offer some advantages.


In this case-controlled study the authors analyzed outcomes obtained in 400 patients in whom either spinal anesthesia or general anesthesia was induced to perform a lumbar decompression. Patients were matched for anesthesia-related class, preoperative diagnosis, surgical procedure, and perioperative protocols. All aspects of surgery, recovery, postanesthesia care, and pain management were uniform irrespective of the anesthetic type. Case complexity was equivalent. An independent observer performed analysis of the data. Data from the intraoperative period through hospital discharge were collected and compared. Two hundred consecutive patients meeting inclusion criteria were included in each group. Patients were treated for either lumbar stenosis or herniated nucleus pulposus. Demographically, both groups were well matched. Anesthetic and operative times were longer for patients receiving a general anesthetic (p < 0.05), in whom more nausea and greater requirements for antiemetics and pain medication were also present during recovery (p < 0.05). Overall complication rates and, specifically, the incidences of urinary retention were significantly lower in spinal anesthesia--induced patients (p < 0.05). There were no neural injuries in either group, and the incidence of spinal headache was lower in patients receiving a spinal anesthetic (1.5% compared with 3%).


Spinal anesthesia was as safe and effective as general anethesia for patients undergoing lumbar laminectomy. Potential advantages of spinal anesthsia include a shorter anesthesia duration, decreased nausea, antiemetic and analgesic requirements, and fewer complications. Successful surgery can be performed using either anesthesia type.

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