What is involved in getting Spinal or Epidural Anesthesia? Does is hurt?
As when receiving any type of anesthesia, you will need the proper monitors placed prior to the procedure, such as an EKG and blood pressure cuff. An IV will also be placed. Depending on your health and the type of procedure, you may be able to have some sedative at this point. You will then be positioned appropriately, either sitting or lying on your side. Sterile disinfectants and drapes are placed around the lower back. A local anesthetic (numbing medicine) is then injected into the skin of your lower back, using a small needle. This is typically the most uncomfortable portion of the procedure for most people, but it lasts only a few seconds. A spinal or epidural needle is then advanced through the previously numbed tissues to the proper position while the patient remains still. The remainder of the procedure should be pain free. If at any time pain or discomfort is felt, let your anesthesiologist know and more anesthetic will be provided.
After the spinal or epidural anesthetic medication is given, a warming sensation is felt initially and later a numbness in the lower half of your body. The extent of the numbness that results depend on the medication used and the type of surgery planned. Generally, there will also be a temporary decrease in muscle strength in the numbed area. Both strength and sensation fully return to normal after the anesthetic has worn off.