Real-time epidural anesthesia guidance using optical coherence tomography needle probe

Qinggong Tang, Chia-Pin Liang, Kyle Wu, Anthony Sandler, Yu Chen


Epidural anesthesia is one of the most widely used anesthesia methods. Due to lack of visual feedback to guide needle navigation, failure rate of epidural anesthesia is up to 20%, and the complication rate of peripheral nerve block approaches 10%, with the potential of permanent nerve damage. To address these difficulties, needle insertion under ultrasound guidance and fluoroscopy has been introduced. However, they do not provide adequate resolution and contrast to distinguish the tissue layers that the needle travels through or to specifically identify the epidural space. To improve the accuracy of epidural space identification, we developed a small hand-held optical coherence tomography (OCT) forward-imaging needle device for real-time epidural anesthesia surgery guidance and demonstrated its feasibility through ex vivo and in vivo animal experiments. With tissue structures visualized and differentiated at the needle tip, OCT needle imaging device will enhance clinical outcomes with regards to complication rates, induced pain, and procedure failure when compared to standard practice. Furthermore, this technology could be used in combination with ultrasound/fluoroscopy to enhance outcomes.