Spinal and Epidural Anesthesia
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Spinal and Epidural Anesthesia

(Spinal Block; Epidural Block)

En Español (Spanish Version)

Definition

These two types of anesthesia numb your body from the chest down to the legs. The medicine is placed directly into the spine area.

Reasons for Procedure

Spinal and epidural anesthesia is frequently given for surgeries involving:

Advantages of these types of anesthesia include:

Possible Complications

Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have spinal and epidural anesthesia, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:

  • Severe headache or back pain
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Nerve damage
  • Infection
  • Allergic reaction to the anesthetic used

Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:

  • Smoking
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Prior allergic reactions to anesthetics
  • Dehydration
  • Immune system disorders

Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the surgery.

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

Make sure that your doctor is aware of:

  • Your drug allergies
  • Medicines 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 Procedure

You will be connected to various monitors to keep track of your:

  • Blood pressure
  • Pulse
  • Oxygen content of your blood

You may also have:

  • An IV line to provide you with fluids
  • A catheter (tube) put into your bladder to keep urine drained

An area on your back above the spinal cord will be cleaned. A local anesthetic will be injected into the skin to numb the area. This is to decrease pain from the larger needle that will be put in your back. If you are getting spinal anesthesia, the doctor will give you one injection. The medicine will be sent directly into the sac of fluid that surrounds the spinal cord.

If you are getting epidural anesthesia, it may be delivered the same way. But, if you need more than one dose, you will have a tiny, flexible tube in place just outside of the fluid sac. This allows the doctor to give you more medicine if you need it. After the surgery, the doctor will place a bandage over the injection spot.

Epidural Injection

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Immediately After Procedure

  • After spinal anesthesia—You may be told to stay in bed with your head flat for several hours. This is to prevent a headache.
  • After either spinal or epidural anesthesia—You 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 Stay

This depends on the type of surgery being done.

Postoperative Care

At the Hospital

If you received epidural anesthesia, the tube may be left in place to give you more medicine. When you no longer need pain control, the doctor will remove the tube.

At Home

When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:

  • For the first 24 hours:
    • Do not drive or operate machinery.
    • Do not drink alcohol.
  • Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions .

Call Your Doctor

After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Persistent or severe headache or back pain
  • Dizziness, fainting
  • Weakness, numbness, or tingling in your arms or legs
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Skin rash
  • Difficulty breathing

In case of an emergency, CALL 911 .

RESOURCES:

American Society of Anesthesiologists
http://www.asahq.org/

National Library of Medicine
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

The Canadian Anesthesiologists' Society
http://www.cas.ca/

Health Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/index_e.html/

References:

Anesthesia & you. American Society of Anesthesiologists website. Available at: http://www.asahq.org/patientEducation/Office-BasedAnesthesiaandSurgery.pdf . Accessed July 27, 2009.

Anesthesia: options and considerations. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com . Accessed September 16, 2003.

Miller RD. Anesthetic techniques. Miller Anesthesia . 7th ed. St. Louis, MO: Churchill Livingstone; 2009: 2223-2231.

Spinal anesthesia. University of Florida website. Available at: http://vam.anest.ufl.edu/simulations/spinalanesthesia.php . Updated April 2009. Accessed July 27, 2009.

6/3/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance: 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.



Last reviewed September 2010 by Zarina G. Memon, MD


Last updated Updated: 6/3/2011

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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