Neurocritical Care

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 206–209 | Cite as

Delayed emergence from anesthesia associated with absent brainstem reflexes following suboccipital craniotomy

  • James R. Munis
  • Anthony W. Marcukaitis
  • Juraj Sprung
Practical Pearl


One of the most feared complications after intracranial surgery is development of acute intracranial pathology, which may result in hypoperfusion and brain injury. Thus, early neurological assessment, performed in the operating room immediately after emergence from anesthesia, is a practice that may contribute to timely diagnosis of neurosurgical complications. Failure to awake after general anesthesia precludes conductance of neurological assessment. We report a patient who failed to emerge from anesthesia after suboccipital craniotomy and had absent brain-stem reflexes with fixed and dilated pupils consistent with severe brain injury. Approximately 60 minutes after termination of surgery, the patient suddenly woke up. After the fact, we discovered that the neurosurgeon performed a generous field block with bupivacaine along the neck incision line.

We presume that our patient's failure to awaken was caused by paralysis of brain-stem caused by migration of bupivacaine from the site of the injection.

Key Words

Anesthetics local bupivacaine administration/adverse effects brain-stem reflexes chemically induced paralysis bupivacaine 


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Copyright information

© Humana Press Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • James R. Munis
    • 1
  • Anthony W. Marcukaitis
    • 1
  • Juraj Sprung
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnesthesiologyMayo Clinic College of MedicineRochester

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