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Spinal and Epidural Anesthesia
What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

Spinal and Epidural Anesthesia Overview

Written by FoundHealth.


These two types of anesthesia numb your body from the chest down to the legs. The medicine is placed directly into the spine area.

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

Make sure that your doctor is aware of:

  • Your drug allergies
  • Medicines you are taking
  • Any heart or lung conditions you have
  • Any previous reactions that you or other family members have had to anesthesia
  • Any bleeding problems you have had in the past

Description of the Procedure

You will be connected to various monitors to keep track of your:

  • Blood pressure
  • Pulse
  • Oxygen content of your blood

You may also have:

  • An IV line to provide you with fluids
  • A catheter (tube) put into your bladder to keep urine drained

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 medicine 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 medicine if you need it. After the surgery, the doctor will place a bandage over the injection spot.

Epidural Injection
Corticosteroid Injection
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Immediately After Procedure

  • After spinal anesthesia—You may be told to stay in bed with your head flat for several hours. This is to prevent a headache.
  • After either spinal or epidural anesthesia—You will stay in bed until your legs are no longer numb.

How Long Will It Take?

Giving spinal or epidural anesthesia usually takes about 15 minutes.

  • Spinal anesthesia—begins working right after the injection is given
  • Epidural anesthesia—takes about 10-20 minutes to begin working

How Much Will It Hurt?

You will feel some pain when the needle is inserted.

Average Hospital Stay

This depends on the type of surgery being done.

Postoperative Care

At the Hospital

If you received epidural anesthesia, the tube may be left in place to give you more medicine. When you no longer need pain control, the doctor will remove the tube.

At Home

When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:

  • For the first 24 hours:
  • Do not drive or operate machinery.
  • Do not drink alcohol.
  • Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions .



American Society of Anesthesiologists

National Library of Medicine


The Canadian Anesthesiologists' Society

Health Canada


Anesthesia & you. American Society of Anesthesiologists website. Available at: . Accessed July 27, 2009.

Anesthesia: options and considerations. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: . Accessed September 16, 2003.

Miller RD. Anesthetic techniques. Miller Anesthesia. 7th ed. St. Louis, MO: Churchill Livingstone; 2009: 2223-2231.

Spinal anesthesia. University of Florida website. Available at: . Updated April 2009. Accessed July 27, 2009.



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