What are the risks of an epidural or spinal block?
While most mothers who receive an epidural or spinal do not experience any side effects or complications, the following are potential risks: lower back tenderness, post dural puncture headache, intravenous injection, infection, and neurologic injury.
Lower back soreness at the injection site is usually self-limiting.
A post dural puncture headache (aka, “spinal” headache) may occur if the membrane covering the spinal cord (dura mater) is pierced, resulting in the slow leakage of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF). This headache usually manifests around 48 hours post-procedure and may require an epidural injection procedure called an epidural blood patch if symptoms persist.
Because the epidural space contains small veins that are engorged from pregnancy, there are rare instances when the medication gets injected directly into a vein. This can result in dizziness, auras, or in the extreme cases, seizures and cardiac events.
Neurologic injury following epidural or spinal nerve blocks is rare and occurs no more frequently than other anesthetics including general anesthesia.