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Intrathecal Analgesia


What is intrathecal analgesia?

Intrathecal analgesia (IA) is a type of pain control. It is also called spinal anesthesia. Pain medicine is put around your spinal cord to control pain from surgery or labor and delivery. IA can also be used to control long-term pain from illnesses, such as cancer.

How is IA given?

Your healthcare provider may give you a single injection of IA if you need pain relief for a short period of time. He will use a needle and insert medicine into the area around your spine. He may insert a thin tube (catheter) that will remain in place if you need pain controlled over a longer period of time. This will allow you to have pain relief as you need it.

How can I manage a headache after IA?

Spinal headache is common after IA. The following can help you manage the pain:

  • Rest as needed: Lie down until your headache is better. Contact your healthcare provider if your headache is severe and it does not improve after you lie down.
  • Drink liquids: You may need to drink more liquids for the first 12 to 24 hours following your procedure. This may help decrease your risk for a spinal headache. Liquids containing caffeine may also decrease the pain of a spinal headache. Do not drink alcohol. Ask your healthcare provider how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.
  • Medicines:
    • Acetaminophen: This medicine decreases pain and fever. Acetaminophen is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
    • Ibuprofen: This medicine decreases pain, swelling, and fever. Ibuprofen is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Ibuprofen can cause stomach bleeding and kidney damage if not taken correctly.

What are the risks of spinal anesthesia?

The medicine used in IA may cause your blood pressure to drop too low or make you breathe very slowly. You may have nausea or vomiting. Your skin may itch. You might have trouble urinating. You could have bleeding, swelling, or a leakage of spinal fluid around the catheter or shot area. Rarely, you could get an infection in your head or spine.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have severe neck or back pain.
  • You have a severe headache and it does not get better after you lie down or take pain medicine.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your catheter is still in place and you have bleeding, swelling, or fluid leaking from it.
  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • You have trouble thinking clearly.
  • You have a stiff neck, especially if you also have a fever.
  • You have numbness and tingling below your waist.
  • You have difficulty moving your legs or feet.

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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Further information

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

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