Electroencephalographic assessment of infant spinal anesthesia: A pilot prospective observational study

Emmett E. Whitaker, Jerry Y. Chao, Gregory L. Holmes, Alan D. Legatt, Elissa G. Yozawitz, Patrick L. Purdon, Shlomo Shinnar, Robert K. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Introduction: Spinal anesthesia is utilized as an alternative to general anesthesia in infants for some surgeries. After spinal anesthesia, infants often become less conscious without administration of sedative medications. The aim of this study was to assess electroencephalographic (EEG) correlates after spinal anesthesia in a cohort of infants. Patients and Methods: This pilot study included 12 infants who underwent spinal anesthesia. Unprocessed electroencephalography was recorded. The electroencephalogram was interpreted by four neurologists. Processed analyses compared electroencephalogram changes 30 min after spinal anesthesia to baseline. Results: Following spinal anesthesia, all 12 infants became sedated. Electroencephalography in all 12 demonstrated Stage 2 sleep with the appearance of sleep spindles (12–14 Hz) in the frontal and central leads in 8/12 (67%) of subjects. The median time to onset of sleep spindles was 24.7 interquartile range (21.2, 29.9) min. The duration of sleep spindles was 25.1 interquartile range (5.8, 99.8) min. Voltage attenuation and background slowing were the most common initial changes. Compared to baseline, the electroencephalogram 30 min after spinal anesthesia showed significantly increased absolute delta power (p = 0.02) and gamma power (p < 0.0001); decreases in beta (p = 0.0006) and higher beta (p < 0.0001) were also observed. The Fast Fourier Transform power ratio difference for delta/beta was increased (p = 0.03). Increased coherence was noted in the delta (p = 0.02) and theta (p = 0.04) bandwidths. Discussion: Spinal anesthesia in infants is associated with increased electroencephalographic slow wave activity and decreased beta activity compared to the awake state, with appearance of sleep spindles suggestive of normal sleep. The etiology and significance of the observed voltage attenuation and background slowing remains unclear. Conclusions: The EEG signature of infant spinal anesthesia is distinct from that seen with general anesthesia and is consistent with normal sleep. Further investigation is required to better understand the etiology of these findings. Our preliminary findings contribute to the understanding of the brain effects of spinal anesthesia in early development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1179-1186
Number of pages8
JournalPaediatric Anaesthesia
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • anesthesia
  • anesthesia
  • electroencephalography
  • infant
  • sedation
  • sleep
  • spinal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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