The erector spinae block is an efficacious analgesic option for the management of rib fracture–related pain. Despite there being minimal published data specifically addressing the safety profile of this block, many societies have made statements regarding its safety and its use as an alternative to traditional regional anesthesia techniques in patients at risk of complications. The primary aim of this study was to characterize the safety profile of erector spinae plane block catheters by determining the incidence of early complications. The secondary aim of this study was to characterize the incidence of late adverse events, as well as the erector spinae plane block catheter failure rate.
We analyzed electronic medical record data of patients who had an erector spinae plane block catheter inserted for the management of rib fractures between November 2017 and September 2020. To assess early adverse events, data collection included hypotension, hypoxemia, local anesthetic systemic toxicity, and pneumothorax thought to be associated with erector spinae plane block catheter insertion. Late complications included catheter site infection and catheter site hematoma.
A total of 224 patients received 244 continuous erector spinae catheters during the study period. After insertion of the erector spinae, there were no immediate complications such as hypotension, hypoxia, local anesthetic toxicity, or pneumothorax. Of all blocks inserted, 7.7% were removed due to catheter failure (8.4 per 100 catheters; 95% confidence interval [CI], 5.1–13.9 per 100 catheters). This resulted in a failure rate of 1.9 per 1000 catheter days (95% CI, 1.1–6.7 catheter days). Late complications included 2 erythematous catheter sites and 2 small hematomas not requiring intervention. The incidence of a minor late complication was 16.7 per 1000 catheters (95% CI, 6.1–45.5 per 1000 catheters).
This study supports the statements made by regional anesthesia societies regarding the safety of the erector spinae plane block. Based on the results presented in this population of trauma patients, the erector spinae plane block catheter is a low-risk analgesic technique that may be performed in the presence of abnormal coagulation status or systemic infection.