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The anaesthetic numbs the nerves to give you pain relief in various areas of your body.

Epidurals can be used either on their own while you are awake, or together with sedation or general anaesthesia.

They can also be used after your operation to give effective pain relief. The epidural can be maintained by giving extra doses when needed or by giving a continuous low dose.

How is epidural anaesthesia administered?

You will meet with the anaesthetist prior to your procedure and he/she will be with you throughout your time in theatre. Staff will assist you getting into a curled up position on a bed. You might be asked to bend forward and hug a pillow or to lie on your side curled up with your knees drawn toward your chest. We understand this can be an anxious time so staff will be with you to reassure and support you during the injection.

Local anaesthetic will be injected into a small area of the skin on your back. The anaesthetist will use a needle to insert a thin plastic tube (epidural catheter) into your epidural space. The needle is then removed. A small amount of anaesthetic will be inserted through the catheter to check it is in the right position. Once this check is completed the anaesthetist will inject more of the drug until the epidural is working properly.

Will I feel anything?

The local anaesthetic might sting briefly. You might feel pressure or movement when the catheter is inserted. Occasionally patients feel an sensation described as an electric shock or pain. Tell the anaesthetist immediately if this happens.

As the epidural begins to work the lower part of your body will feel very heavy. You will not be able to move your legs.

Epidurals can be used both during and after a procedure for pain management. The epidural catheter will be removed once your pain is managed. The numbness and weakness in your legs will gradually decrease over the day following your procedure. For your safety please ask for help before getting out of bed or moving around.

What are the benefits of epidural anaesthesia?

  • Pain management allowing for faster mobility
  • Reduced risk of nausea or vomiting
  • Reduced risk of lung/leg blood clots
  • Reduced risk of chest infections
  • Faster return to eating and drinking

Can anyone have epidural anaesthesia?

Your anaesthetist will carefully assess your medical situation to determine if epidural anaesthesia is right for you. You may not be able to have an epidural if:

  • You are taking any blood thinning drugs
  • You have any history of blood clots
  • You have an allergy to anaesthetics
  • You have a severe deformity or arthritis of the spine
  • You have an infection on your back

Are there any side effects or complications?

Everyone reacts differently to medication. As with any medical procedure you could experience some complications. These might include:

  • Failure of the epidural
  • Feeling nauseous or vomiting
  • Low blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Respiratory depression
  • Itching
  • Difficultly passing urine
  • Backache
  • Leg weakness

Rare complications may include:

  • Seizures
  • Infection around the spine
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Blood clots
  • Damage to nerves
  • Paralysis or death

Are there any alternatives to epidural anaesthetic?

There are several other types of anaesthetic. Your surgeon or anaesthetist will recommend a type of anaesthetic based on your medical situation and the procedure you are having. Click on the links below to read about these procedures:

If you have any questions or concerns about epidural anaesthesia be sure and ask our experienced staff.

For more information about epidural anaesthetic visit The Royal College of Anaesthetists website.

Find your nearest hospital that provides this treatment

67 Lansdowne Road
Bournemouth
BH1 1RW

01202 291866

Shenfield Road
Brentwood
CM15 8EH

01277 695695

Warren Road
Brighton
BN2 6DX

01273 624488

3 Clifton Hill
Clifton
Bristol
BS8 1BN

0117 906 4870

4 Trumpington Road
Cambridge
CB2 8AF

01223 303336

Rykneld Road
Derby
DE23 4SN

01332 540100

Wonford Road
Exeter
EX2 4UG

01392 262110

25 Beaconsfield Road
Glasgow
G12 0PJ

01413349441

Stirling Road
Guildford
GU2 7RF

01483 555805

Burrell Road
Haywards Heath
RH16 1UD

01444 456999

Venns Lane
Hereford
HR1 1DF

01432 355 131

Foxhall Road
Ipswich
IP4 5SW

01473 279100

2 Leighton Street
Leeds
LS1 3EB

01133 882 067

Scraptoft Lane
Leicester
LE5 1HY

0116 2769 401

Clayton Road
Newcastle-upon-Tyne
NE2 1JP

0191 281 6131

Clayton Road
Newcastle-under-Lyme
ST5 4DB

01782 625431

Beech Road
Headington
Oxford
OX3 7RP

01865 307777

Derriford Road
Plymouth
PL6 8BG

01752 775861

Longden Road
Shrewsbury
SY3 9DP

01743 282628

Staplegrove Elm
Taunton
TA2 6AN

01823 286991

Junction Road
Norton
Stockton on Tees
TS20 1PX

01642 367439

Kingswood Road
Tunbridge Wells
TN2 4UL

01892 531111

The Chase
Old Milverton Lane
Leamington Spa
CV32 6RW

01926 436351

Winchester Road
Chandlers Ford
Eastleigh
SO53 2DW

02380 266 377

Shores Road
Woking
GU21 4BY

01483 227800

Wood Road
Tettenhall
Wolverhampton
WV6 8LE

01902 754 177

Haxby Road
York
YO31 8TA

01904 715000

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