Spinal and Epidural Anesthesia
(Spinal Block; Epidural Block)
DefinitionThese two types of anesthesia numb your body from the chest down to the legs. The medication is placed directly into the spine area.
Reasons for ProcedureSpinal and epidural anesthesia is frequently given for:
- Pelvis, hip, or leg procedures
- The ability to be awake during the operation
- Avoiding complications of general anesthesia
Possible ComplicationsProblems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
- Severe headache or back pain
- Drop in blood pressure
- Nerve damage
- Allergic reaction to the anesthetic used
- Longer labor during childbirth with an epidural anesthesia
- Bleeding disorders
- Prior allergic reactions to anesthetics
- Immune system disorders
What to Expect
Prior to ProcedureMake sure that your doctor is aware of:
- Your drug allergies
- Medications you are taking
- Any heart or lung conditions you have
- Any previous reactions that you or other family members have had to anesthesia
- Any bleeding problems you have had in the past
Description of the ProcedureYou will be connected to various monitors to keep track of your:
- Blood pressure
- Oxygen content of your blood
- An IV to deliver fluids
- A tube in your bladder to keep urine drained
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Immediately After ProcedureYou will stay in bed until your legs are no longer numb.
How Long Will It Take?Giving spinal or epidural anesthesia usually takes about 15 minutes.
- Spinal anesthesia—begins working right after the injection is given
- Epidural anesthesia—takes about 10-20 minutes to begin working
How Much Will It Hurt?You will feel some pain when the needle is inserted.
Average Hospital StayYour hospital stay depends on the type of surgery being done.
Postoperative CareAt the HospitalIf you received epidural anesthesia, the tube may be left in place to give you more medication. When you no longer need pain control, the tube will be removed.At HomeFor the first 24 hours:
- Do not drive or operate machinery
- Do not drink alcohol
Call Your DoctorIt is important to monitor your recovery. Alert your doctor to any problems. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Persistent or severe headache or back pain
- Lightheadedness, fainting
- Weakness, numbness, or tingling in your arms or legs
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Skin rash
- Difficulty breathing
American Society of Anesthesiologists
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
The Canadian Anesthesiologists' Society
Spinal anesthesia simulation. University of Florida website. Available at: http://vam.anest.ufl.edu/simulations/spinalanesthesia.php. Accessed November 19, 2013.
What is epidural anesthesia? Baylor College of Medicine website. Available at: https://www.bcm.edu/healthcare/care-centers/anesthesiology/patient-information/epidural-analgesia. Updated August 2010. Accessed November 19, 2013.
What is regional anesthesia? Baylor College of Medicine website. Available at: https://www.bcm.edu/healthcare/care-centers/anesthesiology/patient-information/regional-anesthesia. Updated August 2010. Accessed November 19, 2013.
Your spinal anesthetic. Patient UK website. Available at: http://www.patient.co.uk/health/your-spinal-anaesthetic. Updated January 24, 2012. Accessed November 19, 2013.
6/3/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.e8.
12/30/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Anim-Somuah M, Smyth RM, Jones L. Epidural versus non-epidural or no analgesia in labour. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011;12:CD000331.
- Reviewer: Marcin Chwistek, MD
- Review Date: 08/2014
- Update Date: 09/30/2013