Risks and Benefits of Epidural Anesthesia

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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?

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.
  • Seizures.
  • 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.
  • Shivering.
  • Fever.
  • Itching.

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