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Clinical Investigations

Failed spinal anaesthesia - management by giving a second spinal


Abraham AA ,

About Abraham
Associate Professor, Yenepoya Medical College, Mangalore 575 018
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Jacob Philip

About Jacob
Postgraduate student, Yenepoya Medical College, Mangalore 575 018
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Since its introduction to clinical use in 1899 by August Bier, spinal anaesthesia has stood the test of time. In the last five decades it has gained in popularity.  Apart from avoiding the complications of general anaesthesia , it is a simple , reliable and cheap procedure and relatively easy to master.  But sometimes we come across partial or complete failure of spinal anaesthesia.


This prospective study was undertaken in our institution for one year, from December 2009 to November 2010   to 1 ) determine  the incidence of failed spinal anaesthesia, 2)  manage such cases by giving a second spinal immediately, if surgery has not started 3)  find out the intraoperative , post operative and late complications of the second spinal, if any.

All  patients undergoing lower abdominal, perineal and lower limb surgeries were included.  After ten minutes of giving the spinal anaesthesia with bupivacaine, if no action was seen as determined by sensory level and motor blockade, a second spinal was given preferably at a higher level .   Demographic, anaesthetic, surgical data were collected and analysed.  Patients  were followed up in the postoperative room and in  the ward till their discharge, for any possible complications. Patients were asked to report to the hospital if they developed any problems after discharge.


42 patients out of a total number of 1673  developed partial or complete failure.19 complained pain after surgery had started.  Of these 19, five were managed by giving intravenous analgesia , N2O/O2 50:50 inhalation, and  three by manipulating the table.11 were converted to full general anaesthesia.

Out of 42 patients , 23 were given a second spinal. In all these patients, second injection  acted well giving good muscle relaxation and adequate sensory block.

One patient developed high spinal soon after the second injection.  Another patient developed severe bradycardia and hypotension during the surgery.  There were no complications in the post operative period. None of the patients reported any problems related to spinal anaesthesia after discharge till today.


Repeating a spinal anaesthesia after a failed one is a good method of management, if conditions permit.  By this method, all the indications of giving spinal anaesthesia in the beginning are well preserved.


How to Cite: AA, A. and Philip, J., 2013. Failed spinal anaesthesia - management by giving a second spinal. Sri Lankan Journal of Anaesthesiology, 21(1), pp.14–19. DOI:
Published on 22 Feb 2013.
Peer Reviewed


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