Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
These 2 types of anesthesia numb your body from the chest down to the legs. The medication is placed directly into the spine area.
Spinal and epidural anesthesia is frequently given for:
Advantages of these types of anesthesia include:
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
Make sure that your doctor is aware of:
You will be connected to various monitors to keep track of your:
You may also have:
An area on your back above the spinal cord will be cleaned. A local anesthetic will be injected into the skin to numb the area. This is to decrease pain from the larger needle that will be put in your back. If you are getting spinal anesthesia, the doctor will give you one injection. The medication will be sent directly into the sac of fluid that surrounds the spinal cord.
If you are getting epidural anesthesia, it may be delivered the same way. But, if you need more than one dose, you will have a tiny, flexible tube in place just outside of the fluid sac. This allows the doctor to give you more medication if you need it. After the surgery, a bandage will be placed over the injection spot.
You will stay in bed until your legs are no longer numb.
Giving spinal or epidural anesthesia usually takes about 15 minutes.
You will feel some pain when the needle is inserted.
Your hospital stay depends on the type of surgery being done.
If you received epidural anesthesia, the tube may be left in place to give you more medication. When you no longer need pain control, the tube will be removed.
For the first 24 hours:
It is important to monitor your recovery. Alert your doctor to any problems. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Society of Anesthesiologists
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
The Canadian Anesthesiologists' Society
Spinal anesthesia simulation. University of Florida website. Available at:
http://vam.anest.ufl.edu/simulations/spinalanesthesia.php. Accessed November 19, 2013.
What is epidural anesthesia? Baylor College of Medicine website. Available at: https://www.bcm.edu/healthcare/care-centers/anesthesiology/patient-information/epidural-analgesia. Updated August 2010. Accessed November 19, 2013.
What is regional anesthesia? Baylor College of Medicine website. Available at: https://www.bcm.edu/healthcare/care-centers/anesthesiology/patient-information/regional-anesthesia. Updated August 2010. Accessed November 19, 2013.
Your spinal anaesthetic. Patient UK website. Available at: http://patient.info/health/your-spinal-anaesthetic. Updated January 24, 2012. Accessed November 19, 2013.
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Last reviewed September 2015 by Donald Buck, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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