Epidural anesthesia

Epidural anesthesia is the injection of a numbing medication into the space around the spinal nerves in the lower back. The medication numbs the body below the point of injection, but the person remains awake and may have some control of the numbed area.

The skin where the needle will be inserted is first numbed with a local anesthetic. A guide needle is inserted and then removed, and a catheter remains in place. The anesthetic is then injected through the catheter. Medication that makes the person sleepy also may be used by injecting it into a vein, depending on the procedure being performed.

Epidural anesthesia may be used for certain types of surgery on the lower body or to control pain during childbirth. When a woman has an epidural anesthetic during childbirth, she will feel little or no pain from her contractions.

Last Updated: December 4, 2009

Author: Sandy Jocoy, RN

Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology

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