Epidural for Surgery

What is an Epidural?

- An Epidural is a safe and effective technique to provide pain relief after surgery.

- It significantly reduces pain and discomfort and limits the amount of other sedating pain medications that you get via the IV or by mouth.

- Since you will be getting continuous medication through the epidural the quality of pain control will be better than receiving pain medication by mouth or via an IV.  This is different from pain medication by mouth or via an IV where by their effects will wear off after some time.

- The Epidural can be kept in for several days after an operation.  You will be gradually transitioned to pain medication by mouth in preparation for discharge.

What should I expect?

- Your Anesthesiologist will first explain the procedure to you.

- Your lower back will be cleansed with a special cleaning solution that will feel cold.

- The Anesthesiologist will ask you to be in a position that facilitates placement of the Epidural. This involves leaning forward while sitting on the edge of the bed.

- A tiny area of your skin will be frozen with local anesthetic.  After that you should only feel the pressure of the epidural needle.  If you feel pain or discomfort, tell your Anesthesiologist.

- A small, thin plastic tube is placed through the needle into your back and the needle is removed leaving the plastic tube in place.

- For most procedures you will still require a General Anesthetic.

- As you are waking up after an operation, medication will be given through the Epidural to numb the area in which you had surgery.  If the epidural is working well, you should expect little or no discomfort as you wake up.

- You will be given a button that you can press to give yourself a little bit of extra pain relief should you need it.  The recovery room nurses will explain how this works in detail and make sure you understand how to use it before transferring you to the ward.

What are the benefits of Epidural Anesthesia after Surgery?

- Epidural will provide continuous pain relief for several days if needed.

- There is less nausea, sedation and reduction in post operative complications with an Epidural.

- Often people are able to eat and drink sooner if they have an Epidural.

What are the side effects?

Although Epidural anesthetics are common practice and very safe, there are some potential risks.

- Your blood pressure may decrease temporarily.  This will be closely monitored along with your heart rate and other vital signs.

- Bleeding and other complications are extremely rare.

- Back pain is extremely rare following an Epidural.

- Temporary back pain can occur due to local bruising.

- 1 to 2 patients out of 200 may get a severe headache that most often goes away within 2 to 3 days.

- You may have trouble emptying your bladder with an epidural in which case a tube or catheter will be used to help you drain your bladder.

- Severe and life threatening complications are very rare.

- Occasionally pain relief can be incomplete, in which case the epidural tube may be repositioned or repeated.  If still ineffective, then it ay be removed all together and other forms of pain management will be started like Patient Controlled Analgesia (PCA).

Can anyone have an Epidural?

- Generally speaking yes.

- If you have a bleeding disorder, previous lower back surgery or have an infection in the area we may not be able to provide an Epidural.  It may be a good idea to be referred to the Anesthesia Clinic to discuss this further and to see if you can in fact have an epidural.

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