Spinal Anesthesia

Spinal Anesthesia is commonly used for:

  • Orthopedic procedures on legs or feet
  • Lower abdominal procedures
  • Delivery by cesarean section

Spinal anesthesia is the administration of anesthetic drugs into the spinal fluid. Spinal anesthesia causes profound numbness and lack of muscle control in parts of the body affected by the medication. This technique has a long track record of safety and patient satisfaction. Spinals are frequently utilized at this hospital for a variety of surgeries. Serious complications from spinal anesthesia are extremely rare.

Placement of a spinal is a relatively simple and painless procedure. If it is safe to do so, your anesthesiologist may sedate you prior to the placement of the spinal. If sedation is given prior to the placement of the spinal block, you may have no recollection of the block being performed. However, many spinals are placed without any prior sedation. Typically, patient discomfort during spinal placement is mild and well tolerated. Many patients describe the discomfort as less than having an IV started.

Within minutes after placement of the spinal anesthetic, you will begin to develop numbness and leg heaviness. This will progress over the next ten minutes to complete anesthesia of the involved body parts. The duration of the numbness can be manipulated to a certain degree by the selection of different medications and dosages. Because the spinal anesthetic must last longer than the surgery, you may experience numbness for one to two hours after your procedure is completed. However, we try to tailor the spinal to minimize delays in discharge from the recovery room. If you are having an outpatient procedure your numbness must resolve before you can be discharged to home.

Although infrequent, one complication of spinal anesthesia deserves mention. Spinal headache (or post dural puncture headache, PDPH) is the most common complication of spinal anesthesia. Spinal headache occurs after approximately 1% of spinal anesthetics. The headache usually presents within the first two days after a spinal anesthetic. Its hallmark is a moderate to severe headache that improves when you lie flat and becomes worse when you sit or stand. Spinal headaches are not dangerous and do not cause any long term effects. Most of the time, they will resolve on their own within five to seven days. If the headache is severe or not improving after conservative treatment, an epidural blood patch can be performed. Epidural blood patch for spinal headache has a success rate of at least 90%.

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