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Spinal and epidural anesthesia

Intraspinal anesthesia; Subarachnoid anesthesia; Epidural; Peridural anesthesia

Spinal and epidural anesthesia are medicines that numb parts of your body to block pain. They are given through shots in or around the spine.

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Description

The doctor who gives you epidural or spinal anesthesia is called an anesthesiologist.

First, the area of your back where the needle is inserted is cleaned with a special solution. The area may also be numbed with a local anesthetic.

You'll likely receive fluids through an intravenous line (IV) in a vein. You may receive medicine through the IV to help you relax or sleep lightly.

For an epidural:

For a spinal:

Your pulse, blood pressure and oxygen level in your blood are checked during the procedure. After the procedure, you will have a bandage where the needle was inserted.

Why the Procedure Is Performed

Spinal and epidural anesthesia have fewer side effects and risks than general anesthesia (asleep and pain-free). People usually recover their senses much faster. Sometimes, they have to wait for the anesthetic to wear off so they can walk.

Spinal anesthesia is often used for genital, urinary tract, or lower body procedures.

Epidural anesthesia is often used during labor and delivery, and surgery in the pelvis and legs.

Epidural and spinal anesthesia are often used when:

Risks

Spinal and epidural anesthesia are generally safe. Ask your doctor about these possible complications:

Before the Procedure

Tell your health care provider:

During the days before the procedure:

On the day of the procedure:

After the Procedure

After an epidural, the catheter in your back is removed. You lie in bed until you have feeling in your legs and can walk. You may feel sick to your stomach and be dizzy. You may be tired.

After spinal anesthesia, you lie flat in bed for a few hours. This is to keep you from getting a headache. You may feel sick to your stomach and be dizzy. You may be tired.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Most people feel no pain during spinal and epidural anesthesia and recover fully.

Related Information

Anesthesia - what to ask your doctor - adult
Anesthesia - what to ask your doctor - child
Spine surgery - discharge

References

Brull R, MacFarlane AJR, Chan VWS. Spinal, epidural, and caudal anesthesia. In: Miller RD, ed. Miller's Anesthesia. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 56.

Hernandez A, Sherwood ER. Anesthesiology principles, pain management, and conscious sedation. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery: The Biological Basis of Modern Surgical Practice. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 14.

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Review Date: 5/1/2017  

Reviewed By: Jennifer Sobol, DO, urologist with the Michigan Institute of Urology, West Bloomfield, MI. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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