Anesthesiology/spinal needle


QUESTION: Dear Russell          Could you please tell me if this broken spinal needle through defect hole in sacrum is in my spinal canal? It looks like it is to me but i am not an expert. And what damage it could cause? I have attached two images.Thank you Dr Russell.    Tanya

ANSWER: I think i need more information to understand what you really want to know. I'm not a radiologist so interpretation of imagery would be dependent on a thorough understanding of what occurred to put you in this situation.

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QUESTION: Dear Dr Russell.Thank you for your reply.I had L5 S1 discectomy early dec 2005 and left hospital 9 days later because of so much pain.Went home with pain killers but they did not work, trip home in car was very painful,seen GP for drugs, couldn't see surgeon until may 2006,that 6 months later.I had MRI may 2006 the one that i attached before,surgeon said i had discitis [no mention of needle in report] ,give more drugs and and sent me home.Back into hospital more MRI,s which i told them it was caused server burning pain[no needle in report] sent home with pic line into hart with antibiotics,still got server nerve pain,burning and stabbing pain numb foot  e.c.t.They put pic in wrong plus server reaction to antibiotics nearly killed me,back to hospital for 10 days and more MRI,s more nerve pain sept 2006.One month later they said we found foreign body at L5 level,they did X RAY found broken needle 40 mm long and it was removed mid oct 2006 with new sacr 50mm long and down 20mm from first operation.  The first operation sheet dec 2005 said,conform level of spinal needle markers,presumed needle punctured dura though bony defect in sacrum prooperativey.   I still have the symptoms,can't work,lots of drugs,not well, i hope now you can answer my first question and add more opinions.Maybe i should write a book,there is more bad things but can't fit all in.THANK YOU  Tanya

ANSWER: The pic you gave does not appear to be spinal canal. The needle was removed correct? At that level the sacrum there are are only nerve roots no spinal cord. So in theory, the chances of nerve damage from this needle would be very low but not zero. I, guessing the MRI you sent me is old since you stated that you had the needle removed.

Given your involved medical and surgical history, you really should have a well regarded spine surgery or pain specialist address your ongoing issues with pain. There are lots of reasons you could be suffering still in addition to the history of a retained foreign body (spinal needle)!
Best wishes and I'm sorry for your suffering.
Dr. Russell

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QUESTION: Thanks Dr Russell.Thanks for your reply. Questions i forgot to ask you.In first operation record 2005 it stats,small CSF leak from defect in sacrum,no hole found in dura,presumed needle punctured dura though bony defcet preoperatively. What.What does this mean?Does it mean the broken spinal needle in my spine is the same needle the punctured my dura though defect in sacrum as in first operation record?,or was there a anther spinal needle used in this level that broke? Is the level of my needle S2?        Can you please simplify.Thanks Dr Russell  Tanya

It sounds like radiologist is making an educated guess as to the cause of the CSF leak seen on radiograph.   the radiologist can not know for sure the cause. However, the radiologist makes no mention of retained needle in this report, therefore it's hard to conclude that a broken needle that was left behind resulted in a CSF leak. A good guess is that when the surgeon placed the spinal needle into your back prior to incision, in order to locate the surgical level he wanted, the needle used could have inadvertently entered the spinal space and resulted in a tiny hole in the dura that lead to CSF leakage. At least that is what the radiologist is presuming caused the leak.

I hope I answered your questions
Sorry for your frustrations with trying to understand all of the medical jargon.
Dr. Russell  


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Rex Russell


Any question dealing with general anesthesia issues. With particular emphasis on regional anesthesia.


I am a board certified anesthesiologist, graduated from residency in 2004 from Johns Hopkins Hospital. I have since worked as an anesthesiologist first in the Air Force for three years and then most recently in Texas in Private Practice.

Texas Medical Association Texas society of Anesthesiologists American Society of Anesthesiologists

BS, BYU MD, U of Texas, Galveston Intern-St. Joe's Hospital, Phx, AZ Internal Medicine Residency-Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, MD

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