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Spinal And Epidural Anesthesia

What is spinal and epidural anesthesia?

Spinal and epidural anesthesia are medicines used to numb you from your abdomen to your feet. Caregivers may numb you only to your waist, or up to your nipple line, depending on what kind of surgery you have. You may need this for childbirth or surgeries such as a hernia repair or removal of your appendix.

What happens during spinal and epidural anesthesia?

Caregivers will help you sit or lie on your side with your knees and chin bent toward your chest. First, you will get a shot of medicine to numb the skin on your back. Then your caregiver will insert a needle into your spine. Stay as still as possible. Tell your caregiver if you feel a tingling shock or pain in your leg.

  • Spinal anesthesia: Your caregiver will inject medicine through the needle. You will be awake during surgery but may be given medicine in your IV so that you are sleepy. Your lower body will be numb and you will not be able to move your legs when the medicine starts to work. You will be able move your legs in 1 to 4 hours when the medicine wears off.
  • Epidural anesthesia: Your caregiver will put a catheter (small tube) through the needle into your back. The needle will be taken out, but the catheter will stay in place to provide more medicine as you need it. Your lower body will be numb and you may be able to move your legs, but you should not feel pain. Feeling will return to your legs when caregivers stop putting medicine in the catheter and the medicine wears off.

What happens after spinal or epidural anesthesia?

You will be taken to a room where you can rest until the numbness goes away. Depending on your surgery or procedure, you will be taken to your hospital room or sent home. Arrange to have someone drive you home from the hospital. Do not drive yourself home. It is best if you can have someone stay with you for 24 hours after you have anesthesia.

What do I need to know about spinal and epidural anesthesia?

Tell your caregiver if you or anyone in your family has ever had any problems with anesthesia, such as a high fever. Anesthesia may make it difficult to think. Do not make important decisions for 24 hours after you receive anesthesia.

What are the risks of spinal or epidural anesthesia?

You may have a severe reaction to the anesthesia. It may cause a severe headache or very low blood pressure. It could make you numb above your waist, and lead to nausea or difficulty breathing on your own. Your caregiver may need to put an endotracheal tube into your mouth to help you breathe. Spinal or epidural anesthesia may cause nerve damage. This may lead to long-lasting numbness or pain.

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 caregivers 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.

Further information

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