Spinal and Epidural Anesthesia
(Spinal Block; Epidural Block)
These two types of anesthesia numb your body from the chest down to the legs. The medication is placed directly into the spine area.
Reasons for Procedure
Spinal and epidural anesthesia is frequently given for surgeries involving:
Advantages of these types of anesthesia include:
Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have spinal and epidural anesthesia, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the surgery.
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Make sure that your doctor is aware of:
Description of the Procedure
You will be connected to various monitors to keep track of your:
You may also have:
An area on your back above the spinal cord will be cleaned. A local anesthetic will be injected into the skin to numb the area. This is to decrease pain from the larger needle that will be put in your back. If you are getting spinal anesthesia, the doctor will give you one injection. The medication will be sent directly into the sac of fluid that surrounds the spinal cord.
If you are getting epidural anesthesia, it may be delivered the same way. But, if you need more than one dose, you will have a tiny, flexible tube in place just outside of the fluid sac. This allows the doctor to give you more medication if you need it. After the surgery, a bandage will be placed over the injection spot.
Immediately After Procedure
You will stay in bed until your legs are no longer numb.
How Long Will It Take?
Giving spinal or epidural anesthesia usually takes about 15 minutes.
How Much Will It Hurt?
You will feel some pain when the needle is inserted.
Average Hospital Stay
Your hospital stay depends on the type of surgery being done.
At the Hospital
If you received epidural anesthesia, the tube may be left in place to give you more medication. When you no longer need pain control, the tube will be removed.
When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
Call Your Doctor
After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occur:
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Society of Anesthesiologists
American Academy of Family Physicians
The Canadian Anesthesiologists' Society
Spinal anesthesia simulation. University of Florida website. Available at:
Epidural anesthesia. Baylor College of Medicine website. Available at: https://www.bcm.edu/departments/anesthesiology/index.cfm?pmid=17799. Updated August 2010. Accessed November 19, 2013.
Your spinal anesthetic. Patient UK website. Available at:
6/3/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
12/30/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
Last reviewed September 2013 by Marcin Chwistek, MD