Users Online: 125 Home Print this page Email this page Small font sizeDefault font sizeIncrease font size  
Home | About us | Editorial board | Search | Ahead of print | Current issue | Archives | Submit article | Instructions | Subscribe | Contacts | Login 

RSACP wishes to inform that it shall be discontinuing the dispatch of print copy of JOACP to it's Life members. The print copy of JOACP will be posted only to those life members who send us a written confirmation for continuation of print copy.
Kindly email your affirmation for print copies to [email protected] preferably by 30th June 2019.


Table of Contents
Year : 2016  |  Volume : 32  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 272-273

Pneumocephalus after epidural analgesia: Should loss of resistance with air be blown out?

Department of Anaesthesia, Saket City Hospital, New Delhi, India

Date of Web Publication10-May-2016

Correspondence Address:
Manish Jagia
C1A-12C, Janak Puri, New Delhi - 110 058
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0970-9185.173399

Rights and Permissions

How to cite this article:
Jagia M, Kapoor MC, Panjiar P. Pneumocephalus after epidural analgesia: Should loss of resistance with air be blown out? . J Anaesthesiol Clin Pharmacol 2016;32:272-3

How to cite this URL:
Jagia M, Kapoor MC, Panjiar P. Pneumocephalus after epidural analgesia: Should loss of resistance with air be blown out? . J Anaesthesiol Clin Pharmacol [serial online] 2016 [cited 2021 May 7];32:272-3. Available from:


A 52-year-old woman with a history of diabetes and hypertension, controlled on medications, was scheduled for unilateral total hip replacement under combined spinal-epidural analgesia. Her preoperative blood pressure (BP) was 150/80 mmHg and heart rate (HR) 80/min. Routine monitoring was initiated. Epidural space was determined in sitting position by the loss of resistance to air (LORA) using a 16G Tuohy needle via the L2/3 interspace, and an epidural catheter was placed. 5 ml of air was used and injected twice to confirm the space. There was no cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) backflow from the epidural needle. In less than a minute of LORA testing, the patient complained of excruciating bilateral frontoparietal headache with nausea and developed hypertension (BP 240/110 mmHg) and tachycardia (HR 130/min). The epidural procedure was abandoned, and the patient made supine. Oxygen was administered by face mask. Severe frontal headache persisted for 20 min and patient had two episodes of vomiting. Fentanyl 50 mcg was administered intravenous (IV) and the dose was repeated thrice for analgesia. Systolic BP remained more than 200 mmHg in repeat recordings and tachycardia persisted. Twelve lead electrocardiogram showed no changes. Metoprolol 5 mg IV was given, in divided doses, to control BP. Surgery was postponed, and the patient was relieved of the headache after 30 min. Computerized tomography (CT) scan brain showed pneumocephalus along the sulci and cisternal spaces on both the sides [Figure 1]. Patient was shifted to Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for monitoring. Conservative management was advised by Neurologist. Patient did not complain of headache, nausea or vomiting during monitoring in ICU. There was no neurological deficit. Follow-up CT brain, after 72 h, showed significant resolving of pneumocephalus. Patient was scheduled for total hip replacement under general anesthesia, 4 days after the event, with standard monitoring. Intraoperatively anesthesia was maintained with oxygen, air, desflurane, vecuronium, and fentanyl. Perioperative course was uneventful and patient was discharged on the 5 th postoperative day.
Figure 1: Computerized tomography brain shows air in left frontal, interhemisphere, ambient cisterns, and sulci

Click here to view

Dural tear during epidural block is associated with high incidence of post dural puncture headache (PDPH) due to CSF leakage. PDPH mostly occurs in the occipital region, and it normally occurs after 48-72 h. Sudden onset of frontal headache during an epidural procedure is rare. Its occurrence suggests the presence of air in subarachnoid space leading to pneumocephalus. Our patient complained of a severe frontoparietal headache. Cerebrovascular accident was initially suspected as high BP was recorded. CT scan brain, however, ruled it out.

There are case reports of pneumocephalus following epidural with LORA leading to sudden onset headache. [1] Depending on the site of pneumocephalus, headache has been reported to be associated with numbness in upper extremities, [2] visual disturbances, [2] and seizures. [3] However, these symptoms were not seen in our patient. The inadvertent injection of air and local anesthetic into the subdural space can lead to life-threatening complications such as hypotension, bradycardia, and apnea. [4]

Aida et al. [5] reported a higher incidence of post meningeal puncture headache with LORA than the loss of resistance with saline. Pneumocephalus can occur with even 2 ml of air. [6] Pneumocephalus normally disappears in 2-5 days with reabsorption of air. It should be treated conservatively with oxygen and head down position. Analgesics are administered in patients with severe headache. Pneumocephalus can be prevented by using saline to determine epidural space. The increase in pneumocephalus can be prevented by avoiding nitrous oxide during general anesthesia as nitrous oxide can increase the intracranial pressure significantly by expanding the pneumocephalus. It is recommended that epidural space should be located with saline only to avoid complications due to the air like pneumocephalus or patchy block.

  References Top

Gómez-Ríos MÁ, Fernández-Goti MC. Pneumocephalus after inadvertent dural puncture during epidural anesthesia. Anesthesiology 2013;118:444.  Back to cited text no. 1
Nolan RB, Masneri DA, Pesce D. Pneumocephalus after epidural injections. Emerg Med J 2008;25:416.  Back to cited text no. 2
van den Berg AA, Nguyen L, von-Maszewski M, Hoefer H. Unexplained fitting in patients with post-dural puncture headache. Risk of iatrogenic pneumocephalus with air rationalizes use of loss of resistance to saline. Br J Anaesth 2003;90:810-1.  Back to cited text no. 3
Kim YD, Lee JH, Cheong YK. Pneumocephalus in a patient with no cerebrospinal fluid leakage after lumbar epidural block - A case report. Korean J Pain 2012;25:262-6.  Back to cited text no. 4
Aida S, Taga K, Yamakura T, Endoh H, Shimoji K. Headache after attempted epidural block : t0 he role of intrathecal air. Anesthesiology 1998;88:76-81.  Back to cited text no. 5
Guarino AH, Wright NM. Pneumocephalus after a lumbar epidural steroid injection. Pain Physician 2005;8:239-41.  Back to cited text no. 6


  [Figure 1]

This article has been cited by
1 Pneumocephalus assessment and management
Vincent M. Vacca
Nursing Critical Care. 2017; 12(4): 24
[Pubmed] | [DOI]


    Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
    Access Statistics
    Email Alert *
    Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

  In this article
   Article Figures

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded359    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 1    

Recommend this journal