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Epidural Anesthesia


What you need to know about epidural anesthesia:

Epidural anesthesia is medicine used to numb you so you do not feel pain during surgery. Epidural anesthesia is injected into your lower back. You may be numb to your waist or to your nipple line, depending on what kind of surgery you have. You may need this for childbirth or for pelvis or leg surgery.

How to prepare for epidural anesthesia:

Tell your healthcare provider if you or anyone in your family has ever had problems with anesthesia. Arrange to have someone drive you home. It is best if you can have someone stay with you for 24 hours after you have anesthesia. Tell your healthcare provider about all medicines you are taking, including vitamins and herbs. He or she will tell you which medicines to take or not take before you have epidural anesthesia. He or she may tell you not to eat or drink anything for 8 hours before you get it.

What will happen during epidural anesthesia:

Your healthcare provider will put a catheter (small tube) into your back. Your lower body will be numb. You may be able to move your legs, but you should not feel pain. It may take 10 or 20 minutes before you feel numb from the anesthesia.

What will happen after epidural anesthesia:

The catheter will stay in place to provide more medicine if you need it. You will be taken to a room where you can rest until the numbness goes away. You may have nausea or feel dizzy for a short time after your procedure.

Risks of epidural anesthesia:

You may have a severe headache after the procedure. You may have an allergic reaction to the anesthesia. You may have bleeding in your spine. Your blood pressure may go too low, or you may have a seizure. The medicine could make you numb above your waist. This may cause nausea or difficulty breathing. You may have trouble urinating. The anesthesia may cause nerve damage. This may lead to long-lasting numbness or pain. You may develop meningitis (a brain infection). This can be life-threatening.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have trouble breathing.
  • Your heartbeat is slower than usual.
  • You have a seizure.

Seek care immediately if:

  • You have a severe headache along with a fever and stiff neck.
  • You develop hives or swelling.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a new or worsening headache, or the pain is not relieved with medicine.
  • You have trouble urinating.
  • You have questions or concerns about epidural anesthesia.

Bathe carefully:

You may be able to shower the same day as your procedure. Do not take a bath or swim until your healthcare provider says it is okay.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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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.

Learn more about Epidural Anesthesia (Ambulatory Care)

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Further information

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