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Epidural Anesthesia

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 31, 2022.

What do I need to know about epidural anesthesia?

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

How do I prepare to receive epidural anesthesia?

You may not have time to prepare. If you do have time to prepare, your surgeon will tell you how.

  • Tell your healthcare provider if you or anyone in your family has ever had problems with anesthesia.
  • If you smoke, your surgeon will instruct you to stop at least 24 hours before you have anesthesia.
  • You may be told not to eat or drink anything for 8 hours before you receive the epidural. Arrange to have someone drive you home and stay with you for 24 hours.
  • Tell your surgeon about all your current medicines. He or she will tell you if you need to stop any medicine for the surgery, and when to stop. He or she will tell you which medicines to take or not take on the day of surgery.
  • Tell your surgeon about any allergies you have, including to anesthesia or medicines. You may be given an antibiotic to help prevent a bacterial infection.

What will happen when I receive 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 should I expect after I receive 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.

What are the 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 breathing problems. 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.

Care Agreement

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. 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.

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