Boundaries of the thoracic paravertebral space: potential risks and benefits of the thoracic paravertebral block from an anatomical perspective

Esther A. C. Bouman*, Judith M. Sieben, Andrea J. R. Balthasar, Elbert A. Joosten, Hans-Fritz Gramke, Maarten van Kleef, Arno Lataster

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose Thoracic paravertebral block (TPVB) may be an alternative to thoracic epidural analgesia. A detailed knowledge of the anatomy of the TPV-space (TPVS), content and adnexa is essential in understanding the clinical consequences of TPVB. The exploration of the posterior TPVS accessibility in this study allows (1) determination of the anatomical boundaries, content and adnexa, (2) description of an ultrasound-guided spread of low and high viscous liquid.

Methods In two formalin-fixed specimens, stratification of the several layers and the 3D-architecture of the TPVS were dissected, observed and photographed. In a third unembalmed specimen, ultrasound-guided posterolateral injections at several levels of the TPVS were performed with different fluids.

Results TPVS communicated with all surrounding spaces including the segmental dorsal intercostal compartments (SDICs) and the prevertebral space. TPVS transitions to the SDICs were wide, whereas the SDICs showed narrowed transitions to the lateral intercostal spaces at the costal angle. Internal subdivision of the TPVS in a subendothoracic and an extra-pleural compartment by the endothoracic fascia was not observed. Caudally injected fluids spread posteriorly to the costodiaphragmatic recess, showing segmental intercostal and slight prevertebral spread.

Conclusions Our detailed anatomical study shows that TPVS is a potential space continuous with the SDICs. The separation of the TPVS in a subendothoracic and an extra-pleural compartment by the endothoracic fascia was not observed. Based on the ultrasound-guided liquid spread we conclude that the use of a more lateral approach might increase the probability of intravascular puncture or catheter position.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1117-1125
Number of pages9
JournalSurgical and Radiologic Anatomy
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


  • Regional anesthesia
  • Paravertebral block
  • Paravertebral space
  • Clinical anatomy

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