Ultrasound Transducer for Epidural Needle Guidance

Ultrasound guidance system to improve safety in the delivery of epidural anesthesia


  • Biplane imaging to enable accurate needle guidance into the epidural space
  • Improved contrast of needle compared to existing techniques due to image plane orientation
  • Optimized transducer geometric design enables simultaneous image capture and needle insertion for easy clinical adaption

Technology Details

Epidural anesthesia is administered for millions of births every year in North America alone, and for many surgical procedures.  However, the complication rate administering epidural anesthesia is reported to be as high as 20% of cases.  To administer anesthesia, a needle must be entered into the small epidural space in the spine midline.  The placement of the needle is critical to effectively administering pain relief and avoiding nerve damage.  Accurate epidural needle insertion is difficult to learn and typically relies on the anesthesiologist to detect a loss of resistance on the needle to determine placement. The UBC researcher has previously shown that the anatomical components of the spine are distinguishable using ultrasound imaging, as shown in Figure 1 below.  Ultrasound is already a common imaging modality used in obstetrics, and a growing tool in anesthesia.  The UBC researcher has developed a new ultrasound transducer design that enables excellent visualization of the spinal anatomy and the needle during insertion to improve the accuracy and safety of epidural anesthesia. 

Figure 1. Ultrasound imaging is capable of distinguishing the epidural space.  The new UBC ultrasound transducer provides multiple views of the spinal anatomy to guide needle placement.

The transducer design is superior to other available transducers for epidural insertion because the imaging components do not obscure the midline for insertion of the needle into the epidural space.  The transducer geometry allows for the needle to be inserted simultaneously while acquiring real-time anatomical images.  Moreover, multiple planes are acquired to guide placement with optimal image contrast.