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Curr Opin Anaesthesiol. 2002 Jun;15(3):343-8.

The caudal catheter in neonates: where are the restrictions?

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Department of Anesthesia, Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.



In neonates, epidural catheters inserted at the sacral hiatus can easily be advanced to a lumbar or thoracic level. These 'caudal catheters' are popular because they allow the neonate to benefit from epidural analgesia without the concerns of spinal cord injury potentially associated with primary thoracic placement in an asleep neonate. This review looks at use and benefits, and risks and complications of caudal epidural catheters in neonates.


Restrictions of neonatal caudal catheters are related to risks associated with placement and advancement of the catheters, infectious risks of caudal catheters, and toxicity risks related to the higher free fraction and lower clearance of bupivacaine in neonates. Caudal catheters in neonates are popular, but evidence that they improve outcome is lacking.


Epidural anesthesia and analgesia for neonates should be performed and managed by pediatric anesthesiologists. Potential risks and complications must be appreciated and all steps to maximize safety of the technique must be taken. In particular, close postoperative observation and pain service management are indispensable. Future research should investigate the risks of caudal and segmentally placed catheters in neonates, study the role of epidural analgesia in outcome improvement for neonates, and guide us to safer use of local anesthetics suitable for neonates with their pharmacologic immaturity.

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