Benefits of spinal anesthesia for urologic surgery in the youngest of patients

K M Ebert, V R Jayanthi, S A Alpert, C B Ching, D G DaJusta, M E Fuchs, D J McLeod, E E Whitaker
Journal of Pediatric Urology 2019, 15 (1): 49.e1-49.e5

INTRODUCTION: Increasing concerns regarding potential negative effects of early use of inhalational and intravenous anesthetics on neurocognitive development have led to a growing interest in alternative forms of anesthesia in infants. The study institution's outcomes with spinal anesthesia (SA) for urologic surgery in infants aged less than 90 days are reported and their outcomes with a matched cohort of patients who underwent general anesthesia (GA) are compared.

METHODS: This is a retrospective single-center analysis. Patients aged less than 90 days who underwent SA for four urologic surgeries (inguinal hernia repair, scrotal exploration, posterior urethral valve ablation, and ureterocele puncture) were identified from the study institution's SA database. An age- and procedure-matched control cohort was identified from a list of patients who underwent the aforementioned four procedures under GA since 2013. Outcomes of interest included success rate of SA, complications from spinal placement, narcotic use, need for supplemental medications and oxygen, and length of hospital stay.

RESULTS: Forty patients were identified; 20 in the SA and 20 in the GA group. Mean patient age was 54 (standard deviation, 35) days. There were no significant differences between the groups in age, gender, weight, history of prematurity, or presence of comorbidities. Eighty percent of SA patients had successful SA; reasons for conversion to GA included failure of spinal needle placement (75%) and agitation during operative procedure (25%). Ninety-six percent of patients who received GA (primarily or converted) had an endotracheal tube (ETT) placed. No patient in the SA group had a complication from spinal needle placement. Patients in the SA group were less likely to receive narcotics during the operative procedure (P = 0.001) and also had a lower mean morphine equivalent dose/kilogram (P = 0.002). Patients in the SA group were also less likely to receive any supplemental medications during the operative procedure (P = 0.001), particularly intravenous corticosteroids (P < 0.001). There were no significant differences in the length of hospital stay.

CONCLUSIONS: The use of SA has clear advantages for this medically vulnerable population. For the majority of patients, it obviates the need for ETT placement and airway management and avoids the potential negative effects of GA on neurocognitive development. It also decreases the use of narcotics and other supplemental medications. In scenarios in which the benefit of surgery must be weighed against the risk of GA, such as neonatal torsion, SA may allow a paradigm shift in the timing of surgery.

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