Pneumorrhachis and pneumothorax after epidural analgesia: A case report and review

Nissar Shaikh, Shoaib Nawaz, Ranjan Mathias, Rahman MA, Marcus Lance, Firdous Ummunissa, Amna Khalifa Tellisi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Epidural analgesia or anesthesia is a common procedure for pain relief, especially in obstetrics. Pneumorrhachis and pneumothorax are rare complications of epidural analgesia. They are considered asymptomatic entities but have recently caused increased morbidity and mortality. As the use of epidural analgesia and anesthesia increased significantly in the last decade, clinicians must be aware of this entity. This is a case report of pneumorrhachis causing pneumothorax and pneumomediastinum leading to respiratory distress. Case: A 26-year-old obese primigravida at 37 weeks' gestation and with failure of progression of labor underwent lower segment cesarean section under epidural anesthesia. The procedure including the delivery of fetus was uneventful. In the post-anesthesia care unit, the patient became tachypneic, and her oxygen saturation was low despite supplemented oxygen by face mask and adequate analgesia. She was afebrile and was admitted to the surgical intensive care unit (SICU) for further management. In the SICU, incentive spirometry was initiated, and analgesia with intravenous fentanyl was given. Her echocardiogram was normal. Computer tomographic examination ruled out pulmonary embolism but showed pneumorrhachis with extension into the mediastinum and right apical pneumothorax. She was hemodynamically stable. In the next two days, her tachypnea settled, and the oxygen saturation improved to normal. On the third day, she was transferred to the ward and discharged home from there. She was followed up in the outpatient clinic after one and four weeks and was doing well, and her repeat imaging studies were normal. Conclusion: Epidural analgesia can lead to pneumorrhachis and can cause pneumothorax leading to respiratory distress.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA2
JournalQatar Medical Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Anesthesia
  • Epidural analgesia
  • Pneumomediastinum
  • Pneumorrhachis
  • Pneumothorax
  • Respiratory distress


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