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Summary

The aim of this prospective clinical study was to evaluate the location of paravertebral catheters that were placed using the classical landmark puncture technique and to correlate the distribution of contrast dye injected through the catheters with the extent of somatic block. Paravertebral catheter placement was attempted in 31 patients after video-assisted thoracic surgery. In one patient, an ultrasound-guided approach was chosen after failed catheter placement using the landmark method. A fluoroscopic examination in two planes using contrast dye was followed by injection of local anaesthetic and subsequent clinical testing of the extent of the anaesthetised area. In nine patients (29%), spread of contrast dye was not seen within the paravertebral space as intended. Misplaced catheters were in the epidural space (three patients), in the erector spinae musculature (five patients), and in the pleural space (one patient). There was also a discrepancy between the radiological findings and the observed distribution of loss of sensation. We have demonstrated an unacceptably high misplacement rate of paravertebral catheters using the landmark method. Additional research is required to compare the efficacy and safety of continuous paravertebral block using ultrasound-guided techniques or surgical inserted catheters.