Spinal and Epidural Anesthesia
(Spinal Block; Epidural Block)
by 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.
Reasons for Procedure TOP
Spinal and epidural anesthesia is frequently given for:
Advantages of these types of anesthesia include:
Possible Complications TOP
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:
What to Expect TOP
Prior to Procedure
Make sure that your doctor is aware of:
Description of the Procedure
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.
Immediately After Procedure TOP
You will stay in bed until your legs are no longer numb.
How Long Will It Take? TOP
Giving spinal or epidural anesthesia usually takes about 15 minutes.
How Much Will It Hurt? TOP
You will feel some pain when the needle is inserted.
Average Hospital Stay TOP
Your hospital stay depends on the type of surgery being done.
Postoperative Care TOP
At the Hospital
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:
Call Your Doctor TOP
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:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
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:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated January 24, 2012. Accessed November 19, 2013.
6/3/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com: Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.
12/30/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com: Anim-Somuah M, Smyth RM, Jones L. Epidural versus non-epidural or no analgesia in labour. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011;12:CD000331.
Last reviewed September 2015 by Donald Buck, MD
Last Updated: 9/30/2013
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