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Epidural and spinal anesthesia are injected near the spinal cord and nerve roots to block pain from an entire region of the body. Epidural and spinal anesthesia treatment is recommended for surgery of the lower abdomen and the legs. Epidural anesthesia is also administered to relieve pain during delivery.
A hollow needle with a small, flexible catheter is inserted into the space between the spinal column and outer membrane of the spinal cord in the middle or lower back. The anesthetic is injected into the catheter. The medication is administered into the body through this point and it numbs the body below the point of injection. If at any point during the surgery, more medication is required, it can be injected again through the catheter.
Spinal anesthesia is injected into the cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the spinal cord. Administration of spinal anesthesia, usually, does not require a catheter. It numbs the body below the site of the injection.
A neurologist uses epidural and spinal anesthesia in conjugation with sedatives or analgesics. These medications administered intravenously help the patient to sleep through the planned surgical procedure.
The most common side effects of epidural and spinal anesthesia are a headache, which in most cases subsides with time.