Vasovagal cardiac arrest during spinal anesthesia for Cesarean section -A case report-

Korean J Anesthesiol. 2013 Jan;64(1):77-81. doi: 10.4097/kjae.2013.64.1.77. Epub 2013 Jan 21.


The vasovagal response is characterized by an inappropriate combination of bradycardia and paradoxical vasodilation. During a general or neuraxial anesthesia-induced sympathectomy, a sudden vagal activation and/or an acute reduction in sympathetic tone can cause serious vasovagal responses. Neuraxial anesthesia for Cesarean section may trigger vasovagal response, due to multiple risk factors; high neuraxial block, sudden hemorrhage, aortocarval compression, peritoneal manipulation, and emotional stress. A 39-year-old pregnant woman, at 38 weeks of gestation with episodes of non-sustained ventricular arrhythmia and newly developed vasovagal syncope during pregnancy, was scheduled to undergo a spinal anesthesia for an elective Cesarean section. Immediately after the placental expulsion, a sudden severe bradycardia, followed by a cardiac arrest occurred. The patient fully recovered after prompt cardiopulmonary resuscitation with chest compression, manual ventilation with oxygen, rapid injection of epinephrine and hydration. This case illustrates a serious potential risk of vasovagal response superimposed on neuraxial anesthesia, during a Cesarean section, especially during placental expulsion.

Keywords: Anesthesia; Cesarean section; Heart arrest; Spinal; Syncope; Vasovagal.