Combination of the T7 unilateral erector spinae plane block and T10 bilateral retrolaminar blocks in a patient with multiple rib fractures on the right and T10-12 vertebral compression fractures: a case report


Department of Anesthesia, Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center


Multiple vertebral compression and rib fractures in elderly patients with pre-existing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a common scenario associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Severe pain prevents normal ventilation and leads to atelectasis, consolidation, and pneumonia. Subsequently, these patients frequently develop respiratory failure and require intubation and critical care. Therefore, adequate analgesia is often a life-saving intervention. Anesthetic management of a 78-year-old kyphotic patient with T6, T7, and T9 rib fractures on the right and T10-12 vertebral compression fractures sustained in an accidental fall is presented. She had inadequate pain control and was unable to take a deep breath or cough. Her respiratory status was deteriorating, with tachypnea and worsening hypoxia, necessitating bi-level positive airway pressure (BiPAP) support. Since thoracic epidural analgesia was contraindicated owing to compressive vertebral fractures and to the pending respiratory failure, we opted for a unilateral erector spinae plane (ESP) block at the T7 level and bilateral retrolaminar (RL) blocks at the T10 level. Following the procedure, the pain was immediately relieved and the patient was able to take deep breaths. Shortly thereafter, her respiratory status improved, with the respiratory rate coming back close to the baseline. The patient was subsequently weaned from BiPAP support and discharged from the intensive care unit. While the combination of ESP and RL blocks is not routinely used in patients with multiple rib and vertebral compression fractures, our report indicates that it may be an excellent alternative for analgesia in situations where thoracic epidural and/or paravertebral blocks are contraindicated and when timely intervention could be potentially life-saving.

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