Incidence of epidural catheter-associated infections after continuous epidural analgesia in children

Navil F. Sethna, David Clendenin, Umeshkumar Athiraman, Jean Solodiuk, Diana P. Rodriguez, David Zurakowski

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Clinical observation suggests that the number of serious epidural catheter-associated infections have increased recently in children. This increase is likely attributed to an increase in reporting and in frequency of epidural analgesia usage. Estimates of infection rates are difficult to determine primarily because of insufficient study of large pediatric populations. In this retrospective study, the authors investigated the incidence of epidural catheter-associated soft tissue and epidural infections after use of continuous epidural analgesia spanning 17 yr. A total of 10,653 epidural catheters were used in 7,792 children. The majority of catheters, 10,437 (98%), were placed for the management of postoperative pain, and 216 (2%) were placed for the management of chronic pain. The authors identified 13 cases of infections (nine cellulitis, two paravertebral musculature infections, one epidural inflammation, and one epidural abscess) between 3 and 11 days after catheter insertion. The incidence of infection was significantly higher in patients treated for chronic pain (7 of 216 = 3.2%) compared with postoperative pain (6 of 10,437 = 0.06%; P < 0.0001). Surgical drainage of subcutaneous pus was performed in three patients, and medical therapy was administered in the remainder of patients; all patients recovered without sequelae. Although rare, epidural catheter-associated infections remain a serious concern in high-risk children who may benefit the most from epidural analgesia. The findings of the authors support the low rate of epidural infection previously reported despite growing concerns of serious infections in children. These findings highlight the importance of vigilance to early diagnostic indicators of infection and provide practitioners and families with incidence data to guide informed medical decision-making.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)224-232
Number of pages9
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2010


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