Skip to Content

Spinal Anesthesia


What you need to know about spinal anesthesia:

Spinal anesthesia is medicine to numb part of your body so you do not feel pain during surgery. Spinal anesthesia is injected into your lower back. You may need this for surgery such as a hernia repair, C-section, or appendix removal. You may be numb to your waist or to your nipple line, depending on the surgery.

How to prepare for spinal 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 from the hospital. It is best if you can have someone stay with you for 24 hours after you have anesthesia. Your healthcare provider will talk to you about how to prepare for spinal anesthesia. He or she may tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your procedure. Tell him or her about all of the medicines you take, including vitamins and herbs. He or she will tell you which medicines to take or not take on the day of your procedure. You may need to stop taking certain medicines several days before you have spinal anesthesia.

What will happen during spinal anesthesia:

Your healthcare provider will inject medicine into your lower back. 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.

What will happen after spinal anesthesia:

You will be able move your legs in 1 to 4 hours when the medicine wears off. You will be taken to a room where you can rest until the numbness goes away. You will be taken to your hospital room or sent home. You may have nausea, itching, or dizziness from the anesthesia. These should last a short time.

Risks of spinal 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. You may develop low blood pressure. The medicine could make you numb above your waist. This may cause nausea or difficulty breathing. You may have trouble urinating. You may have nerve damage that causes chronic numbness or pain. You may develop meningitis (a brain infection). This can be life-threatening.

Call 911 if:

  • You have a seizure.
  • You have trouble breathing, or your heartbeat is slower than usual.

Seek care immediately if:

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

Contact your healthcare provider if:

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


  • Drink more liquid. Liquids help prevent a headache caused by dehydration.
  • Lie flat if you have a headache. Try to lie still for at least 30 minutes when the headache begins.
  • Ask when you can drive. Your healthcare provider will tell you when it is safe for you to drive.
  • Limit activity as directed. You may need to do light activities for up to 6 weeks after you have spinal anesthesia. Do not lift anything heavier than 5 pounds 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.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2021 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

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.