What is an epidural?

An epidural or epidural anesthesia is often associated with childbirth, although the truth is that it can be used in the treatment of various types of physical ailments and pain or neuralgia where general anesthesia or more invasive procedures are not recommended or suitable. It is recommended in the following cases:

  • An epidural is an option given to women during natural childbirth. It numbs the pain without affecting muscle power, meaning a woman can no longer feel contractions, but can still press when directed by her doctor.
  • It can sometimes be used for cesarean section surgeries, although this may not be enough anesthesia, so doctors may sometimes recommend additional medications or general anesthesia.
  • An epidural can be used to treat certain types of chronic pain that have not responded to any other type of localized or general treatment. often referred to as epidural steroid injection uses a steroid to treat the pain and inflammation often associated with back pain.
  • It is effective for most types of pain involving the lower body, especially the abdomen and pelvis.

Anesthesia is administered by inserting an injection or catheter into the epidural space, a membranous area in the spinal column. Once the catheter has been placed, a series of medications are administered through the catheter, causing a temporary but complete loss of sensation in the area. During labor, a simple epidural injection may be enough for most women, although doctors may choose to place a catheter anyway. The injection itself can be slightly painful when performed, as it involves inserting a long needle into the spine. However, most people report that they only feel pressure and discomfort, rather than pain, when they receive the injection.

Complications of epidural use are small and rare. Fewer than 1 in 10,000 women experience any type of nerve damage, accidental dural puncture, or catheter displacement. Headaches and back pain have also been reported after receiving this anesthetic. In most cases, the effects are temporary, reversing within a few hours or days after the catheter is removed.

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