A spinal anaesthetic can be used for most people, usually giving a safe and effective form of pain relief both during and after an operation or procedure.

What is a spinal anaesthetic?

A spinal anaesthetic (or spinal) involves injecting local anaesthetics and other painkillers into an area called the subarachnoid space, near your spinal cord. This numbs your nerves to give pain relief in certain areas of your body. A spinal can be used either on its own while you are awake, or together with sedation or a general anaesthetic. A spinal can also be used after your operation to give effective pain relief.

How is a spinal anaesthetic given?

Your anaesthetist will insert a needle, inject anaesthetic through it and then remove the needle. It should not be painful, although it can be uncomfortable.

A spinal anaesthetic usually lasts for one to three hours. The anaesthetist will put enough anaesthetics through the needle to make sure that it lasts longer than the expected length of the operation.

What complications can happen?

  • Failure of the spinal
  • Low blood pressure
  • Headache
  • Itching
  • Difficulty passing urine
  • Backache
  • Loss or change of hearing
  • Cardiovascular collapse
  • Unexpected high block
  • Infection around your spine
  • Nerve damage
  • Paralysis or death

A complication may happen after you have had a spinal, such as:

  • Pus, redness, tenderness or pain
  • A high temperature
  • Feeling unwell
  • Discomfort when in a bright room or sunlight
  • Neck stiffness
  • Difficulty moving or feeling your legs
  • Difficulty passing urine
  • Bowel incontinence
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Information leaflet

This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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Iain Moppett (DM, MRCP, FRCA)
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The operation and treatment information on this webpage is produced using information from EIDO Systems International and is licensed by Horder Healthcare. The information should not replace the advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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