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Spinal and Epidural Anesthesia

  • Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
Publication Type:


Spinal and Epidural Anesthesia

(Spinal Block; Epidural Block)


This type of anesthesia is placed near the spine area. It will block sensations like pain from the chest down to the legs.

Reasons for Procedure

Anesthesia is used to block pain. There are different types. Spinal and epidural anesthesia will allow you to be awake without feeling pain in your lower body. It has fewer risks than general anesthesia. Spinal and epidural are most often used for:

Possible Complications

Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will go over problems that could happen such as:

  • Severe headache or back pain
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Nerve damage
  • Infection
  • Allergic reaction to the anesthesia medicine
  • Longer labor during childbirth with an epidural

Things that may increase the risk of problems include:

  • Smoking
  • Bleeding disorders
  • History of allergic reactions to anesthesia
  • Dehydration
  • Immune system issues

What to Expect

Problems To Look Out For

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Signs of infection, such as fever or chills
  • Lasting or severe headache or back pain
  • Lightheadedness or fainting
  • Weakness, numbness, or tingling in your arms or legs
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Skin rash
  • Breathing problems

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.

Prior to Procedure

A specialist will talk to you before anesthesia is used. They will ask about:

  • Any drug allergies
  • Medicine you are taking
  • Health issues such as heart, lung, or bleeding problems
  • Any problems you have had with anesthesia




  • Epidural anesthesia. Baylor College of Medicine website. Available at: https://www.bcm.edu/healthcare/care-centers/anesthesiology/for-patients/epidural-analgesia.
  • Regional anesthesia. Baylor College of Medicine website. Available at: https://www.bcm.edu/healthcare/care-centers/anesthesiology/patient-information/regional-anesthesia.
  • Spinal anesthesia simulation. University of Florida website. Available at: http://vam.anest.ufl.edu/simulations/spinalanesthesia.php.
  • 6/2/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T905141/Treatment-for-tobacco-use: Mills, E., Eyawo, O., et al. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med, 2011; 124 (2): 144-154.
  • 12/30/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T130450/Epidural-analgesia-during-labor: Anim-Somuah, M., Smyth, R.M., et al. Epidural versus non-epidural or no analgesia in labour. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011;12:CD000331.


  • Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.