What are the Risks and Benefits of Epidural Anesthesia
Epidural anesthesia, also called an epidural, is a method of numbing the body. An epidural is often done to prevent pain during childbirth or after a major abdominal or chest surgery.
During an epidural, a numbing medicine (anesthetic) is injected into the back, near the spinal cord. The medicine affects the lower half of the body.
What are the benefits of epidural anesthesia?
- Helps control pain after a procedure or childbirth.
- Reduces the amount of pain medicine that is needed after the procedure or childbirth.
- Results in less sleepiness after the procedure or childbirth compared to other kinds of pain medicines.
- Helps you get back to your normal activities.
- Allows you to be awake during the procedure or childbirth.
What are the risks of epidural anesthesia?
Epidural anesthesia can result in:
- A severe headache called a spinal headache.
- Uneven, incomplete, or no pain relief.
- Difficulty breathing.
- A long-term or permanent inability to move (paralysis). This is rare.
- Loss of consciousness.
- Difficulty urinating or having bowel movements.
- Infection of the spine.
- A drop in blood pressure (hypotension).
- Nerve damage.
- Bleeding between the spinal vertebrae and the outside lining of the spinal cord (spinal hematoma).
- An allergic or toxic reaction to the anesthetic.
- Difficulty breastfeeding right after giving birth (during the postpartum period).
- Loss of heart function (cardiac arrest). This is rare.
Epidural anesthesia can also cause the following side effects:
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Dizziness and fainting.