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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
Overall rating View rating

Shenfield Road, Brentwood, CM15 8EH

01277 695695
Overall rating Good

Warren Road, Brighton, BN2 6DX

01273 624 488
Overall rating Good

3 Clifton Hill, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 1BN

0117 906 4870
Overall rating Good

4 Trumpington Road, Cambridge, CB2 8AF

01223 370 922
Overall rating Outstanding

Rykneld Road, Derby, DE23 4SN

01332 540100
Overall rating Good

Wonford Road, Exeter, EX2 4UG

01392 276 591
Overall rating Good

25 Beaconsfield Road, Glasgow, G12 0PJ

0141 334 9441

Stirling Road, Guildford, GU2 7RF

01483 555 800
Overall rating Good
Haywards Heath  

Burrell Road, Haywards Heath, RH16 1UD

01444 456999
Overall rating Good

Venns Lane, Hereford, HR1 1DF

01432 355 131
Overall rating Good

Foxhall Road, Ipswich, IP4 5SW

01473 279100
Overall rating Good

2 Leighton Street, Leeds, LS1 3EB

0113 388 2111
Overall rating Outstanding

Scraptoft Lane, Leicester, LE5 1HY

0116 276 9401
Overall rating Good
Newcastle upon Tyne  

Clayton Road, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE2 1JP

01912 816 131
Overall rating Good
North Staffordshire  

Clayton Road, Newcastle-under-Lyme, ST5 4DB

01782 382551
Overall rating Good

Beech Road, Headington, Oxford, OX3 7RP

01865 307777
Overall rating Good

Derriford Road, Plymouth, PL6 8BG

01752 775 861
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Longden Road, Shrewsbury, SY3 9DP

01743 282 500
Overall rating Good

Staplegrove Elm, Taunton, TA2 6AN

01823 286 991
Overall rating Good

Junction Road, Norton, Stockton on Tees, TS20 1PX

01642 360 100
Overall rating Outstanding
Tunbridge Wells  

Kingswood Road, Tunbridge Wells, TN2 4UL

01892 531 111
Overall rating Good

The Chase, Old Milverton Lane, Leamington Spa, CV32 6RW

01926 427971
Overall rating Good

Winchester Road, Chandlers Ford, Eastleigh, SO53 2DW

02380 266 377
Overall rating Good

Shores Road, Woking, GU21 4BY

01483 227800
Overall rating Good

Wood Road, Tettenhall, Wolverhampton, WV6 8LE

01902 793 269
Overall rating Good

Haxby Road, York, YO31 8TA

01904 715 000
Overall rating Good

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