An epidural is a spinal injection to relieve pain in a specific body area. Epidural anaesthesia is a type of epidural commonly given for pain relief in childbirth and some types of surgery.
When to use an epidural
The following are possible uses for epidurals:
- During labour and childbirth, including caesareans
- During some types of surgery
- After some types of surgery
Also administered with steroids to treat sciatica or slipped (prolapsed) disc pain in your back or leg.
Preparation before an epidural
Consult the doctor if you carry any concerns or inquiries about an epidural. Inform them of the specification of any medications you are taking.
You could receive instructions on what to eat, drink, and take before getting an epidural. After receiving an epidural, you won’t be allowed to drive for 24 hours, so you’ll need to arrange for someone to go you home.
How to administer an epidural
An anaesthetist is a type of doctor that specialises in administering epidurals. Although you’re often awake during an epidural, the procedure can sometimes happen under general anaesthesia.
- Your arm will be inserted with a drip so that you may get fluids while receiving the epidural.
- Instruction will be to lie on your side with your legs up near your chest or to sit down and lean forward.
- An anaesthetist will administer local anaesthetic to numb the skin where the epidural will get Injected.
- A little plastic tube known as an epidural catheter is inserted with a needle into the spine of your back, near the nerves that transfer pain signals to your brain.
Depending on the body’s location that requires pain management, the atheistic administer epidural at various levels of your spine.
Pain relief medicines then pass through the catheter taking about 20 to 30 minutes to full effect. During the epidural medications administration, your legs may not feel as powerful as usual, and your chest, stomach, and legs may feel numb.
You can manually or automatically top off your painkiller medications through the catheter while it’s still in your back. This process might range from a few hours (after delivery) to a few days (following major surgery). When used during labour, mobile epidurals, which employ a lesser dosage of painkillers, allow you to move around throughout work.
Recovery after an epidural
The numbness often lasts for a few hours after the withdrawal of the epidural. The anaesthetist will guide you to rest sitting until the feeling in your legs returns.
You could experience a mild tingling in your skin throughout this process, which might take a few hours. If you have any pain, let the doctor or nurse know. To help you control it, they can give you medication.
After receiving an epidural, you should wait 24 hours before operating machinery or drinking alcohol.
Risks and side effects
Epidurals are usually safe, but there’s a small risk of side effects and complications, including:
- Low blood pressure
- Temporary loss of bladder control
- Itchy skin
- Feeling sick
- Nerve damage
Reviewed by-Dr. Priyanka, MBBS MD
Page last reviewed: 31 May 2023