Fascia blocks (eg, the transversus abdominis plane [TAP] block) target the intermuscular fascia layers. Ultrasound techniques have allowed peripheral blocks to be performed with accuracy and safety, however, with limitations. Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is based on low-coherence interferometry. In this study, we examined the ability of OCT to identify the TAP.
A swept-source OCT probe was placed in a 17-gauge needle to obtain imaging. The needle was inserted within 2 different angle ranges (0°–30° and 30°–60°) on a slice of pork belly to assess imaging characteristics. A series of real-time OCT imaging of the muscle, fascia, and interfascial space was obtained. The tissue location of the needle tip was identified using near-infrared (NIR) imaging. In vivo OCT imaging was further done on 3 female 6-month-old native Chinese Landrance Duroc pigs. Real-time images of tissue layers were obtained with needle insertion. Ultrasound imaging of the OCT needle probe was also performed at the same time for needle trajectory guidance. After imaging, the OCT probe was removed, and 5 mL of normal saline was injected via the needle to confirm correct fascia plane identification.
In and ex vivo studies showed clear visual distinction of muscle, fascia, and interfascial layer with OCT, with limitations. Independent validation of OCT criteria for the muscle/fascia differentiation by 20 OCT readers for the in vivo data demonstrated the sensitivity = 0.91, specificity = 0.90, and accuracy = 0.89. Although the angle of needle entry affected the depth of OCT penetration in the muscle, the attenuation coefficient values of the fascia and muscle tissue were statistically different (P < .001) and with high area under the receiver operating characteristics (ROC) curve (AUC) (AUC = 0.93 in 0°–30° and AUC = 1 in 30°–60°) for fascia identification.
This study introduced a novel needle imaging probe method to identify the transversus abdominis fascia plane in real-time. Quantitative calculation of the attenuation coefficients can further aid objective identification by providing direct confirmation of the tip position, increasing the first-pass success rate, and decreasing the need for needle repositioning. Combining OCT and ultrasound may improve the accuracy of anesthetics placement.