SciELO - Scientific Electronic Library Online

vol.1 issue4Effects of a nursing intervention in the control of symptoms in patients with fibromyalgia. Case reportComplex regional pain syndrome in the orofacial region. Case report author indexsubject indexarticles search
Home Pagealphabetic serial listing  

Services on Demand




Related links



Print version ISSN 2595-0118On-line version ISSN 2595-3192

BrJP vol.1 no.4 São Paulo Oct./Dec. 2018 


Erector spinae plane block for perioperative analgesia in cardiac surgery. Case report

Bloqueio do plano eretor espinhal para analgesia perioperatória em cirurgia cardíaca. Relato de caso

Ricardo Kenithi Nakamura1 

Felipe Chiodini Machado1  2 

Leonardo Sérgio Rocha Novais1 

1Hospital Beneficência Portuguesa de São Paulo, São Paulo, SP, Brasil.

2Universidade de São Paulo, Faculdade de Medicina, São Paulo, SP, Brasil.



The anesthetic management has evolved with the use of alternative techniques that promote greater safety, quick recovery and comfort in the perioperative period. The erector spinae plane block emerges as a promising alternative that can be employed as a simple analgesic technique for thoracic analgesia, acute post-surgical, post-traumatic and chronic neuropathic thoracic pain.


Female patient, 72-year-old, undergoing aortic valve replacement surgery under general anesthesia associated with an erector spinae plane block as a technique for perioperative pain management.


We demonstrate with this case report that the erector spinae plane block can be a suitable option as a regional analgesia technique for cardiac surgery, used perioperatively as a regional block for multimodal analgesia. Further research and studies are needed to address its efficacy and safety for multiple cardiac and aortic surgery techniques.

Keywords: Erector spinae plane block; Fast-track; Enhanced recovery after surgery



O manuseio anestésico evoluiu com o uso de técnicas alternativas que promovem maior segurança, rápida recuperação e conforto no período perioperatório. O bloqueio do plano eretor espinhal surge como uma alternativa promissora que pode ser empregada como uma técnica analgésica simples para analgesia torácica, dor torácica aguda pós-cirúrgica, pós-traumática e crônica neuropática.


Paciente do sexo feminino, 72 anos, submetida à cirurgia de troca valvar aórtica sob anestesia geral associada ao bloqueio do plano eretor espinhal, como técnica para o manuseio da dor no período perioperatório.


O presente relato demonstrou que o bloqueio do plano eretor espinhal pode ser uma opção adequada como uma técnica de analgesia regional para cirurgia cardíaca, usada no perioperatório como um bloqueio regional para analgesia multimodal. Mais pesquisas e estudos são necessários para abordar sua eficácia e segurança para múltiplas técnicas de cirurgia cardíaca e aórtica.

Descritores: Bloqueio do plano eretor espinhal; Fast-track; Recuperação aprimorada após a cirurgia


The anesthetic management has evolved with the use of alternative techniques that promote greater safety, quick recovery and comfort in the perioperative period. Fast-track or enhanced recovery after surgery (ERAS) is a concept of perioperative management that aims at shortening hospital stay in order to reduce patient morbidity and healthcare costs. It combines minimally invasive surgical techniques, preoperative patient optimization, and evidence-based clinical measures that minimize complications and speeds up recovery1. The goals of fast-track surgery are reducing postoperative complications and speeding recovery times. For fast-track strategy, regional blocks are often performed for postoperative pain management and to facilitate extubation after major surgeries.

The interfacial plane block, or erector spinae plane (ESP) block, produces an extensive multi-dermatome sensory block. Local anesthetic (LA) instilled in the myofascial plane deep to the erector spinae muscle and superficial to the tip of the transverse process is likely to provide sensory block at the posterior, lateral and anterior thoracic wall2. The analgesic effect seems to be due to the diffusion of LA into the paravertebral space, acting at both the dorsal and ventral rami of the thoracic spinal nerves, and at the rami communicantes that supply the sympathetic chain3. The ESP plane extends along the length of the thoracolumbar spine, thus providing extensive craniocaudal spread. There is evidence that a single injection in a cadaver model at T5 could spread between C7 cranially and L3 caudally2.

The ESP block can be associated with general anesthesia in major surgery facilitating early extubation in the operating room and is associated with shorter length of stay and morbidity after open thoracic surgery and major vascular surgery4,5. However, there is no evidence or report of ESP block used for postoperative analgesia in cardiac surgery.

We present a case of ESP block being used for postoperative pain management in aortic valve replacement surgery.


A 72-year-old woman, weight 64kg and height 150cm (body mass index 28.4 kg/m2), with a history of systemic arterial hypertension, prediabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), hypothyroidism and heavy smoking for over 50 years was scheduled for aortic valve replacement surgery. She was medicated with losartan, metoprolol, trimetazidine, atorvastatin, propatilnitrate, metformin, bupropion, and levothyroxine. A transthoracic echocardiogram was performed showing a 67% ejection fraction, a calcified aortic valve with significant stenosis (pressure gradient of 63mmHg and mean of 42mmHg), discrete Doppler reflux, severe calcification of the mitral valve with mild stenosis and ascending aorta with discrete dilatation (diameter 42mm).

We elected a single-shot bilateral ESP block as a regional anesthetic technique to provide postoperative analgesia, with early extubation planning to reduce morbidity. The ESP block was performed with the patient in a sitting position, and a high-frequency linear ultrasound transducer (GE Healthcare Venue 40 12L-SC) was placed in a longitudinal orientation 3.0cm lateral to the T5 spinous process. Three muscles were identified superficial to the process transverse shadow as follows: trapezius, rhomboid major, and erector spinae. A 50mm 22G block needle (B Braun stimuplex needle 22x2 50 mm 25/CS) was inserted in a cephalic-to-caudal direction until the tip lay in the interfascial plane between rhomboid major and erector spinae muscles, as evidenced by the visible linear spread of fluid between the muscles upon injection. A total of 30mL of 0.375% ropivacaine was injected in both sides. General anesthesia was induced with propofol (80mg), fentanyl (150µg), rocuronium (50mg) and ketamine (20mg) intravenously. Maintenance was performed with propofol (0.8 to 1.2µg/mL), remifentanil (1 to 2ng/mL) and lidocaine (1mg/kg/h). Morphine (3mg) was administered 30 minutes before extubation. The surgery occurred without complications. Extracorporeal circulation time was 65 minutes, and tweezing time 51 minutes. The patient was extubated in the operating room and was referred to the intensive care unit (ICU) on spontaneous ventilation with oxygen support through a mask with a reservoir.

Postoperative analgesia was maintained with dipyrone (1g) every 6h, and tramadol (100mg) if necessary. The first tramadol rescue dose was administered 9h after the end of the surgery when the patient reported a numeric pain scale (NPS – from zero to 10) of zero/10 at rest and 5/10 while moving. Twelve hours after the blockade, she reported pain 1 (zero-10) at rest and 3 (zero-10) at movement. It was necessary to administer tramadol (100mg) once daily until the second postoperative day (POD) when the thoracic drains were removed. Discharge from ICU was delayed because the patient presented a high-response atrial fibrillation episode, without hemodynamic repercussion, reversed with chemical cardioversion. The patient remained stable and was discharged to the ward in the POD 3, where she received oral analgesia with acetaminophen and codeine every 8h, for 3 days and had no pain complaints. The patient was discharged from the hospital in POD 6 and remained pain-free with acetaminophen use only.


Regional anesthesia is an important component of multimodal analgesia after thoracotomy reducing stress response, pain scores, and opioid consumption6. Despite that, the ideal multimodal analgesia regimen should combine regional analgesia and systemic analgesics. Prior to extubation, a preventive dose of morphine was also administered for multimodal analgesia. For this surgery, it is commonly expected high postoperative pain scores and opioid consumption7. However, in our case, postoperative analgesia was maintained with the ESP block and a weak analgesic (dipyrone). The first opioid bolus was demanded only 9h after surgery when the patient had moderate incidental pain. This time greatly surpasses the effect of intraoperative administered analgesics. For these reasons, it is the authors’ impression that the ESP block can be used as an opioid sparring technique.

Traditional regional anesthesia techniques such as thoracic epidural analgesia and thoracic paravertebral blockade are unsuitable in aortic valve replacement surgery because of the need for postoperative heparinization to prevent pump thrombosis and the ensuing risk of spinal hematoma. The most recent edition of the American Society of Regional Anesthesia guidelines on patients receiving antithrombotic therapy recommend that in neuraxial and paraneuraxial blocks there should be at least 1h between needle insertion and heparinization and at least 2 to 4h between the discontinuation of heparin infusion and catheter removal8. The ESP block, on the other hand, targets a myofascial plane located between the erector spinae muscles and the posterior aspect of the transverse processes. It provides thoracic analgesia by local anesthetic diffusion into the neural foraminal and intercostal spaces and over several vertebral levels from a single point of injection9. The needle does not enter the paravertebral space and remains distant from the neuroaxis, discrete plexi or nerves, and major blood vessels. The American Society of Regional Anesthesia guidelines8 suggest that management of blocks of this nature be guided by “site compressibility, vascularity, and consequence of bleeding” while acknowledging that there are insufficient data to definitely confirm safety. Based on these principles, there is some evidence that the theoretical risk of clinically significant complications related to bleeding is low and is outweighed by the benefit observed in the patients described10. Recently, other authors have reported the efficacy and safety of ESP block for postoperative pain control in breast surgery11, thoracotomy12, abdominal surgery13 and even spine fusions14 in case reports, but to our knowledge, there are no reports for aortic valve replacement surgery.


We demonstrate with this case report that the ESP block can be a suitable option as a regional analgesia technique for cardiac surgery, used perioperatively as a regional block for multimodal analgesia. Further research and studies are needed to address its efficacy and safety for multiple cardiac and aortic surgery techniques.

Sponsoring sources: none.


1 Ljungqvist O, Scott M, Fearon KC. Enhenced recovery after surgery - a review. JAMA Surg. 2017;152(3):292-8. [ Links ]

2 Forero M, Adhikary SD, Lopez H, Tsui C, Chin KJ. The erector spinae plane block: a novel analgesic technique in thoracic neuropathic pain. Reg Anesth Pain Med. 2016;41(5):621-7. [ Links ]

3 Chin KJ, Malhas L, Perlas A. The erector spinae plane block provides visceral abdominal analgesia in bariatric surgery: a report of 3 cases. Reg Anesth Pain Med. 2017;42(3):372-6. [ Links ]

4 David RA, Brooke BS, Hanson KT, Goodney PP, Genovese EA, Baril DT, et al. Early extubation in associated with reduced length of stay and improved outcomes after elective aortic surgery in the vascular quality initiative. J Vasc Surg. 2017;66(1):79-94. [ Links ]

5 Zettervall SL, Soden P, Shean KE, Deery SE, Ultee KHJ, Alef M, et al. Early extubation reduces respiratory complications and hospital length of stay following repair of abdominal aortic aneurysms. J Vasc Surg. 2017;65(1):58-64. [ Links ]

6 Rojas SV, Hanke JS, Haverich A, Schmitto JD. Chronic ventricular assist device support: surgical innovation. Curr Opin Cardiol. 2016;31(3):308-12. [ Links ]

7 Gerbershagen HJ, Aduckathil S, van Wijck AJ, Peelen LM, Kalkman CJ, Meissner W. Pain intensity on the first day after surgery: a prospective cohort study comparing 179 surgical procedures. Anesthesiology. 2013;118(4):934-44. [ Links ]

8 Horlocker TT, Vandermeuelen E, Kopp SL, Gogarten W, Leffert LR, Benzon HT. Regional anesthesia in the patient receiving antithrombotic or thrombolytic therapy: American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine Evidence-Based Guidelines (Fourth Edition). Reg Anesth Pain Med. 2018;43(3):263-309. [ Links ]

9 Adhikary SD, Bernard S, Lopez H, Chin KJ. Erector spinae plane block versus retrolaminar block: a magnetic resonance imaging and anatomical study. Reg Anesth Pain Med. 2018 [Epub ahead of print]. [ Links ]

10 Adhikary SD, Prasad A, Soleimani B, Chin KJ. Continuous erector spinae plane block as an effective analgesic option in anticoagulated patients after left ventricular assist divide implantation: a case series. J Cardiothor Vasc Anesth. 2018;12. Pii: S1053-0770(18)30257-X [Epub ahead of print]. [ Links ]

11 Gürkan Y, Aksu C, Kus A, Yörükoglu UH, Kiliç CT. Ultrasound guided erector spinae plane block reduces postoperative opioid consumption following breast surgery: a randomized controlled study. J Clin Anesth. 2018;50:65-8. [ Links ]

12 Nath S, Bhoi D, Mohan VK, Talawar P. USG-guided continuous erector spinae block as a primary mode of perioperative analgesia in open posterolateral thoracotomy: a report of two cases. Saudi J Anaesth. 2018;12(3):471-4. [ Links ]

13 Tulgar S, Selvi O, Kapakli MS. Erector spinae plane block for different laparoscopic abdominal surgeries: case series. Case Rep Anesthesiol. 2018;2018:3947281. [ Links ]

14 Chin KJ, Lewis S. Opioid-free analgesia for posterior spinal fusion surgery using erector spinae plane (Esp) blocks in a multimodal anesthetic regimen. Spine. 2018;31. [Epub ahead of print]. [ Links ]

Received: July 11, 2018; Accepted: September 17, 2018

Correspondence to: Rua Maestro Cardim, 769 – Liberdade 01323-001 São Paulo, SP, Brasil. E-mail:

Conflict of interests: none

Creative Commons License This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.