BACKGROUND: Thoracic paravertebral block (TPVB) is considered the gold standard for hemithoracic regional anaesthesia. Erector spinae plane block (ESPB) is a new posterior thoracic wall block. Multiple-injection costotransverse block (MICB) mimics TPVB but with injection points within the thoracic intertransverse tissue complex and posterior to the superior costotransverse ligament. We aimed to compare the spread of injectate into the thoracic paravertebral space (TPVS) resulting from single-injection ESPB and MICB, respectively, with TPVB.
METHODS: Ten soft-embalmed cadavers were utilised. In five cadavers, the right hemithorax was randomly allocated either to ultrasound-guided single-injection ESPB or single-injection TPVB; vice versa on the other side. In another five cadavers, the right hemithorax was randomly allocated either to ultrasound-guided MICB or multiple-injection TPVB. About 20 mL of dye was injected in each hemithorax with all techniques.
RESULTS: With TPVB, the dye was consistently present in the TPVS with concomitant epidural spread in the majority of cases. The injectate spread into the TPVS with ESPB (60%) and MICB (100%). MICB consistently stained the ventral rami (T1-7), communicating rami and thoracic sympathetic trunk without epidural spread. Dissection after MICB revealed dye spread into the TPVS via the costotransverse foramina and along the dorsal branches of the posterior intercostal veins.
CONCLUSIONS: Consistent spread of dye into the TPVS colouring the ventral rami, the communicating rami, and the sympathetic trunk was observed with MICB; in this respect equivalent to TPVB. ESPB exhibited only partial success and was not equivalent to TPVB. No epidural spread was found with neither MICB nor ESPB.