Epidural anesthesia is done by the injection of a local anesthetic solution, with or without a narcotic medication, into the low back into the epidural space. Prior to beginning anesthesia, the anesthesiologist places monitors of blood pressure, electrocardiogram, pulse and oxygen saturation of the blood. The word epidural translates to "outside the dura". The dura is the outermost lining of the meninges covering the nerves of the spinal column. The epidural space is located with a needle by the anesthesiologist, and the appropriate anesthetic medications are injected. Often, a tiny hollow catheter is left in the epidural space, and taped to the patient’s back, to allow repeat doses of medications to be given. The catheter is removed at the end of surgery, or sometimes days later if continued epidural medications are administered for postoperative pain control.

Local anesthetics, such as
lidocaine or bupivicaine (Marcaine), given into the epidural space, bring on sensory and motor numbness. The anesthesiologist chooses the dose and type of drug depending on the patient’s age, size, height, medical condition, and the type of surgery.

Following the onset of numbness from epidural anesthesia, the patient may either stay awake for surgery, or more often intravenous sedation is given to achieve a light sleep. Sometimes light general anesthesia is given to supplement epidural anesthesia.
go to next topic....