Skip to content

 

Spinal anaesthetic

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 (see figure 1). 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

Summary

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.

Acknowledgements

Author: Dr Iain Moppett DM MRCP FRCA

Illustrations: Medical Illustration Copyright © Nucleus Medical Art. All rights reserved. www.nucleusinc.com

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

Copyright © 2017 EIDO Healthcare Limited - The operation and treatment information on this webpage is produced using information from EIDO Healthcare Ltd and is licensed by the Horder Centre.

The intellectual property rights to the information belong exclusively to EIDO Healthcare Limited. You may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information other than for your personal, non-commercial use. The information should not replace any advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

Issued June 2017 | Expires end of May 2018

Healthy eating

Exercise & fitness

Lifestyle

Leave feedback about Horder Healthcare or read patient reviews — NHS Choices website

Horder Healthcare is regulated by Care Quality Commission to provide care — Read the full report