Subdural block and the anaesthetist

Anaesth Intensive Care. 2010 Jan;38(1):20-6. doi: 10.1177/0310057X1003800105.


There are a number of case reports describing accidental subdural block during the performance of subarachnoid or epidural anaesthesia. However it appears that subdural drug deposition remains a poorly understood complication of neuraxial anaesthesia. The clinical presentation may often be attributed to other causes. Subdural injection of local anaesthetic can present as high sensory block, sometimes even involving the cranial nerves due to extension of the subdural space into the cranium. The block is disproportionate to the amount of drug injected, often with sparing of sympathetic and motor fibres. On the other hand, the subdural deposition can also lead to failure of the intended block. The variable presentation can be explained by the anatomy of this space. High suspicion in the presence of predisposing factors and early detection could prevent further complications. This review aims at increasing awareness amongst anaesthetists about inadvertent subdural block. It reviews the relevant anatomy, incidence, predisposing factors, presentation, diagnosis and management of unintentional subdural block during the performance of neuraxial anaesthesia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia, Epidural / adverse effects*
  • Anesthesia, Obstetrical
  • Anesthesia, Spinal / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Medical Errors* / statistics & numerical data
  • Nerve Block / adverse effects*
  • Pregnancy
  • Subarachnoid Space
  • Subdural Space / anatomy & histology*
  • Subdural Space / injuries*