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Epidural Adhesiolysis


Epidural adhesiolysis is surgery to treat long-term back or leg pain. The epidural space is the area between your spinal cord and the bones that make up your spine. Pain may be caused by scar tissue in the epidural space pressing on nerves in your spine. Epidural adhesiolysis may be used to remove the scar tissue.


Before your surgery:

  • Informed consent is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.
  • An IV is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.
  • Pre-op care: You may be given medicine right before your procedure or surgery. This medicine may make you feel relaxed and sleepy. You are taken on a stretcher to the room where your procedure or surgery will be done, and then you are moved to a table or bed.
  • Monitoring:
    • Heart monitor: This is also called an ECG or EKG. Sticky pads placed on your skin record your heart's electrical activity.
    • A pulse oximeter is a device that measures the amount of oxygen in your blood. A cord with a clip or sticky strip is placed on your finger, ear, or toe. The other end of the cord is hooked to a machine.

During your surgery:

  • You may be given medicine to help you relax or make you drowsy. Your healthcare provider may also inject medicine to numb the skin over your spine. He will insert a needle between the vertebrae in your lower back. You may feel some pushing or discomfort as the needle enters your back. Tell your healthcare provider if you have pain that does not stop within a few seconds. Your healthcare provider may need to pull out, reinsert, or change the position of the needle to find the epidural area.
  • Your healthcare provider will inject a dye to make nerves and scar tissues in the spinal area easier to see on fluoroscopy (a type of x-ray). He will insert a catheter and small tools in the epidural space. He may use a small scope with a monitor to see where to place the catheter. He will slowly move the catheter to try to free the nerves from the scar tissue.
  • Your healthcare provider may inject a fluid to dissolve the scar tissue. He may also inject a mixture of anesthetic and steroid medicine through the catheter. When the surgery is finished, the needle will be taken out. Your healthcare provider will use stitches to keep the catheter from being pulled out. The catheter will be covered with a cap and antibiotic medicine. A bandage will cover the area to keep it clean and dry.

After your surgery:

You will be taken to a recovery room until you are fully awake. Healthcare providers will watch you closely for any problems. Your blood pressure, heart rate, and ability to move will be monitored closely. Do not get out of bed until your healthcare provider says it is okay. When healthcare providers see that you are okay, you will be taken back to your hospital room. A healthcare provider may remove the bandages soon after your surgery to check your catheter.

  • Medicines:
    • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to help treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.
    • Pain medicine: You may be given a prescription medicine to decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you ask for more medicine.
  • Neurologic exam: Your healthcare provider will check how your pupils react to light. He may also check your memory, hand grasp, and balance.
  • Activity: You may need to walk around the same day of surgery, or the day after. This will help prevent blood clots. You may also be given exercises to do in bed. Do not get out of bed on your own until your healthcare provider says you can. Talk to healthcare providers before you get up the first time. They may need to help you stand up safely. If you feel weak or dizzy, sit or lie down right away if you feel weak or dizzy.
  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist may teach you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain.


  • You may have bleeding, infection, or trouble breathing after surgery. Spinal fluid may leak from the site. During the surgery, your spinal cord, blood vessels, or nerves may be injured. Your pain may return even after this surgery. You may have an allergic reaction to medicine used during surgery. Steroids may increase your risk of infection. If you have a blood disorder or take certain medicines, you may have a higher risk for problems during or after surgery.
  • Without treatment, your pain may get worse and cause more problems. You may have permanent muscle or nerve damage. You may also have problems moving your legs or be unable to control your bladder or bowel.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Epidural Adhesiolysis (Inpatient Care)

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