Spinal and Epidural Anesthesia
(Spinal Block; Epidural Block)
by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
This type of anesthesia is placed near the spine area. It will block sensation like pain from the chest down to the legs.
Reasons for Procedure
Anesthesia is used to block pain. There are different types. Spinal and epidural anesthesia will allow you to be awake without feeling pain in lower body. It has fewer risks than general anesthesia. Spinal and epidural are most often used for:
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review possible problems such as:
Things that may increase the risk of problems include:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
A specialist will talk to you before anesthesia is used. They will ask about:
Description of the Procedure
Monitors will keep track of blood pressure, pulse, and oxygen levels in the blood. A tube may be passed up into the bladder. It will help to drain urine while the anesthesia is active. An area on the back will be cleaned. A medicine will be injected into the skin. It will numb the area for the spinal or epidural.
Spinal anesthesia : A needle will be passed into space around the spine. The medicine will be sent into the fluid that surrounds the spinal cord. It will be given in 1 injection.
Epidural anesthesia : A needle will be passed into space around the spine. The medicine will be sent into the fluid that surrounds the spinal cord. A tiny, flexible tube may be left in place just outside of the fluid sac. This will allow more doses to be given if it is needed.
A bandage will be placed over the area when the process is done.
Immediately After Procedure
You will stay in bed until your legs are no longer numb.
How Long Will It Take?
It takes about 15 minutes to deliver a spinal or epidural.
How Much Will It Hurt?
You will feel some pain and pressure when the needle is inserted.
Average Hospital Stay
The hospital stay will depend on the reason anesthesia was needed.
Some activity, like driving, will need to be limited for the first 24 hours.
Call Your Doctor
It is important to monitor your recovery. Alert your doctor to any problems. Call your doctor if you have:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Society of Anesthesiologists
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Canadian Anesthesiologists' Society
Epidural anesthesia. Baylor College of Medicine website. Available at: https://www.bcm.edu/healthcare/care-centers/anesthesiology/for-patients/epidural-analgesia. Updated August 2010. Accessed February 14, 2020.
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 February 14, 2020.
Spinal anesthesia simulation. University of Florida website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed February 14, 2020.
Spinal anaesthetic. Patient website. Available at: https://patient.info/health/spinal-anaesthetic. Updated August 17, 2017. Accessed February 14, 2020.
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Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 10/2/2020