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Spinal Anesthesia

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 3, 2022.

What do I 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 do I prepare for spinal anesthesia?

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

  • 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 after midnight before surgery. Ask someone to drive you home and stay with you for 24 hours after surgery.
  • 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 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 should I expect after I receive spinal anesthesia?

  • 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 will be able move your legs in 1 to 4 hours when the medicine wears off.
  • You may have nausea, itching, or dizziness from the anesthesia. These should last a short time.

What are the 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.

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.