Spinal and Epidural Anesthesia Procedure

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. You will stay awake during both of these types of anesthesia.

The area of your back where the needle is inserted is cleaned with a special solution. Most of the time this shot goes in your lower back. This area may also be numbed with a local anesthetic. You may receive fluids through an intravenous line (IV) in a vein. You may also get medicine to help you relax.

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

For an epidural:

- The doctor injects medicine just outside of the sac of fluid around your spinal cord. This is called the epidural space.

- The medicine numbs, or blocks feeling in a certain part of your body so that you cannot feel pain. The medicine begins to take effect in about 10 to 20 minutes. It works well for longer procedures. Women often have epidurals during childbirth.

- A small tube (catheter) is often left in place. You can receive more medicine through the catheter to help control your pain during or after your procedure.

For a spinal:

- The doctor injects medicine into the fluid in your spinal cord. This is usually done only once, so you will not need to have a catheter placed.

- The medicine begins to take effect right away. It works well for shorter and simpler procedures.

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