The ultrasound-guided retrolaminar block is one of the newer and simpler alternatives to the traditional, often technically challenging, paravertebral (PV) block. Its feasibility, safety, and efficacy have already been clinically demonstrated in patients with multiple rib fractures using higher volumes of local anesthetic, when compared with the traditional approach. The primary aim of this observational anatomical study was to assess the spread of local anesthetic from the retrolaminar injection point to the PV space and its volume dependence. Second, we assessed the incidence of epidural and contralateral PV spread in the both groups.
Ten fresh porcine cadavers were randomized into 2 groups (n=5 each) to receive ultrasound-guided retrolaminar injections at Th4-Th5 level with either 10 mL (low-volume group) or 30 mL (high-volume group) of 2% lidocaine and methylene blue mixture. After the procedure, the cadavers were dissected and frozen. Cross-section cuts (~1 cm thick) were performed to evaluate the injectate spread.
In the high-volume group, injectate spread from the retrolaminar to the PV space was observed in all specimens (5 out of 5; 100%), while in the low-volume group, no apparent spread to the PV space was found (0 out of 5; 0%). No epidural or contralateral PV spread was observed in any of the specimens.
Following ultrasound-guided retrolaminar injections in fresh porcine cadavers, injectate spread from the retrolaminar tissue plane to the PV space is strongly volume dependent, suggesting that, clinically, high local anesthetic volumes maybe critical for achieving regional anesthesia and analgesia consistent with traditional PV blockade.