Epidural anesthesia is the injection of a numbing medicine into the space around the spinal nerves in the lower back. The medicine numbs the body below the point of injection, but the person may remain awake and may have some control of the numbed area.
The skin where the needle will be inserted is first numbed with a local anesthetic. A guide needle is inserted and then removed, and a catheter remains in place. The anesthetic is then injected through the catheter. Medicine that makes the person sleepy also may be used by injecting it into a vein, depending on the procedure being done.
Epidural anesthesia may be used for certain types of surgery on the lower body or to control pain during childbirth. When a woman has an epidural anesthetic during childbirth, she will feel little or no pain from her contractions.
Last Revised: December 2, 2011
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine & John M. Freedman, MD - Anesthesiology
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