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International Journal of Obstetric Anesthesia (2006) 15, 68–70
Ó 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
A case of unilateral Horner’s syndrome after combined
spinal epidural anesthesia with ropivacaine 10 mg/mL
P. D. Theodosiadis, V. O. Grosomanidis, F. V. Gkoutzioulis, J. M. TzafettasObstetric Department, Interbalkan Medical Center, Thessaloniki, Greece
SUMMARY. We report a case of transient unilateral Horner’s syndrome during the setting of combined spinalepidural anesthesia for elective cesarean section using ropivacaine 10 mg/mL. The pathophysiology of Horner’ssyndrome and the possible mechanisms in relation to combined spinal epidural anesthesia are also presented.
Ó 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Horner’s syndrome; Pregnancy; Combined spinal epidural anesthesia
infused, then, with the patient in the sitting position, a
Horner’s syndrome is a triad of miosis, ptosis and
combined spinal-epidural was sited at L3/4 lumbar inter-
enophthalmos commonly associated with vasodilatation
space using the needle through needle technique. The
(facial flashing), anhydrosis and nasal stuffiness.
epidural space was located with a 17-gauge Tuohy nee-
Horner’s syndrome has been reported following several
dle using loss of resistance to saline and 1% ropivacaine
regional anaesthetic techniques, including brachial
2 mL was given intrathecally via a 25-gauge Whitacre
plexus blockand thoracic and lumbar epidural anesthe-
spinal needle, followed by insertion of an epidural cath-
siaSeveral cases have been reported in obstetric pa-
eter. The patient was turned on to the left lateral posi-
tients using bupivacaine and ropivacaine epidural
tion. There were no episodes of hypotension. The level
but there are no reports of Horner’s syndrome following
of the block to cold sensation was ascertained at T4
spinal injection of a local anesthetic in the obstetric set-
bilaterally just before the cesarean section. A healthy
ting. Moreover we could not find any data in the avail-
baby was born with 1- and 5-min Apgar scores 9 and
able literature (MEDLINE) regarding the occurrence of
Horner’s syndrome after subarachnoid injection of ropi-
Ten minutes after the delivery, and 20 min after the
spinal injection of ropivacaine, the patient complained
We report a case in which a patient developed
of heaviness of the left eye lid, swelling of the left eye
Horner’s syndrome after the subarachnoid injection of
and loss of strength of the left arm. Examination re-
ropivacaine as a single agent for cesarean section.
vealed left miosis, ptosis and conjunctival hyperemia.
A diagnosis of left Horner’s syndrome was assumed.
The sensory block to cold was now T3-4 on the left side
and at T4-5 on the right. A consultant neurologist wascalled and confirmed the initial diagnosis.
A 27-year-old, 75 kg, 168-cm primigravida was sched-
The patient was transferred for CT scan and intracra-
uled for cesarean section because of cephalopelvic dis-
nial pathology was excluded, as there were no abnormalfindings. She was then transferred to the recovery roomfor closer observation. As the block started to subside
the patient noticed an improvement of her symptoms.
Correspondence to: Dr. Panayiotis Theodosiadis, Consultant
Once the block had completely receded, about 4-6 h
Anesthetist, Anesthesia Department, 424 Military Hospital,
later, there were no neurological symptoms. Subsequent
Thessaloniki 54638, Greece, Tel.: +0030-6944763219;
analgesia was provided using intramuscular morphine
Horner’s syndrome after CSE ropivacaine for cesarean section 69
(1000-1500 mL) before the subarachnoid injection,which is critical to prevent the disastrous effect of hypo-
To date there have been no reports of Horner’s syn-
tension due to high sympathetic blockade.
drome in association with spinal anesthesia in obstetric
The Horner’s syndrome in our case was unilateral,
practice. In contrast, Horner’s syndrome is often re-
probably because of the left lateral position (ropivacaine
ported following epidural blockade, and the incidence
is slightly hypobaric with the baricity of 0.9998 at
has been found to be 1.33% associated with epidural
37 °C) and this is in agreement with previous reports
analgesia for labor and 4% with epidural anesthesia
of unilateral Horner’s syndrome associated with labor
epidurals.For the same reason, the injection of ropiva-
In our case, Horner’s syndrome manifested with a
caine may result in a higher spread when the patient is
sensory analgesia to the T3-4 level but it appears that
kept in the sitting position for at least 2 min after the
sympathetic blockade rose to a higher segmental level.
injection, as it has been demonstrated for bupivacaine.
The sympathetic nerve supply for the region arises from
Thus, both ropivacaine and plain bupivacaine may be
the intermediolateral grey column of C6 through T1.
unreliable for spinal anesthesia if the hyperbaric solution
Ray et al.found a substantial individual variability
is not used, as they occasionally produce high spinal
in the innervation of the dilating fibers of the iris. The
Therefore, as the optimal dosage of ropiva-
sympathetic innervation controlling of the dilator pupil-
caine is unknown, a hyperbaric solution for spinal anes-
lae and opening of the eye was found to travel through
thesia, especially for cesarean delivery, is considered
one or more spinal roots between the levels of C8 and
T4. They also showed that stimulation of the anterior
Associated symptoms and signs are usually benign
spinal roots between T1 and T4 induced dilation of the
and resolve spontaneously. They are most commonly re-
homolateral pupil. These fibers, after passing through
lated to the Horner’s syndrome itself, e.g. nasal stuffi-
the white rami communicantes, continue to the cervical
ness, blurred vision, strange feeling over the affected
sympathetic chain and ascend through the stellate and
eye or hemiface. Patients are more likely to complain
middle cervical ganglia to terminate in the superior cer-
of respiratory discomfort because of nasal stuffiness
vical ganglion. Unmyelinated fibers leave this ganglion
than because of diminished chest wall motion.
and form the internal carotid plexus, which further di-
Although in this case Horner’s syndrome was tran-
vides, giving rise to the cavernous plexus. Fibers from
sient, secondary to spinal cephalad spread of local anes-
this plexus enter the orbit and send branches to the supe-
thetic (ropivacaine), some cases may result from
rior rectus and the levator palpebrae superioris muscles.
intracranial pathology and other causes of Horner’s syn-
Some fibers innervate the dilator pupillae through the
The purpose of this report is to review the theories,
Paralysis of these various sympathetic pathways
to explain the development of this complication of
causes unopposed parasympathetic tone and results in
spinal anesthesia and to heighten awareness of this be-
miosis, ptosis and enopthalmos. The occurrence of
nign condition among labor suite personnel. Last but
Horner’s syndrome in the absence of sensory blockade
not least, the symptomatic patient and anxious family
may be explained by the high sensitivity of sympathetic
members may need appropriate reassurance when a
nerve fibers to local anestheticsand the fact that the
diagnosis of Horner’s syndrome is made in the obstetric
sympathetic blockade appears to be more cephalad than
the sensory. In addition, distension of the epidural veinsduring pregnancy, which reduces the volume of the epi-dural space and Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF), will favor
cranial spread of local anesthetics.
It is known that sympathetic responses during spinal
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