Tranexamic acid-associated intrathecal toxicity during spinal anaesthesia: A narrative review of 22 recent reports

Eur J Anaesthesiol. 2023 May 1;40(5):334-342. doi: 10.1097/EJA.0000000000001812. Epub 2023 Mar 6.


Therapeutic use of tranexamic acid (TXA) to minimise blood loss is common during a wide range of surgical procedures. This review aims to explore the clinical features of the accidental intrathecal administration of TXA and to identify contributory factors that might prevent future incidents. The author searched published reports of accidental intrathecal administration of TXA using Medline and Google Scholar databases from July 2018 to September 2022, including error reports in any language but excluding errors via nonintrathecal routes. The human factors analysis classification system (HFACS) framework was used to examine and classify the human and systemic factors that contributed to the errors. Twenty-two errors of accidental intrathecal administration were reported during the search period. The analysis showed that the outcome was death in eight patients (36%) and permanent harm in four (19%). The fatality rate was higher among female individuals (6/13 versus 2/8 male individuals). Two-thirds of errors (15/22) occurred during orthopaedic surgery (10) and lower segment caesarean sections (5). Nineteen of 21 patients developed refractory or super refractory status epilepticus, requiring mechanical ventilation and intensive care for 3 days to 3 weeks for those who survived the initial few hours. Severe sympathetic stimulation resulting in refractory ventricular arrhythmias was the final event in some patients, with death within a few hours. Lack of familiarity with clinical characteristics caused delayed diagnosis or confusion with other clinical conditions. A proposed plan to manage intrathecal TXA toxicity is presented, including immediate cerebrospinal fluid lavage; however, there is no specific approach. The HFACS suggested mistaking look-alike TXA ampoules for local anaesthetic was the predominant cause. The author concludes that inadvertent intrathecal TXA is associated with mortality or permanent harm in more than 50% of patients. The HFACS demonstrates that all errors are preventable.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia, Spinal* / adverse effects
  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Antifibrinolytic Agents*
  • Blood Loss, Surgical / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Hemorrhage / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Tranexamic Acid* / adverse effects


  • Tranexamic Acid
  • Antifibrinolytic Agents
  • Anesthetics, Local