This page will give you information about a spinal anaesthetic. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.
What is a spinal anaesthetic?
A spinal anaesthetic involves injecting drugs into an area called the subarachnoid space near the spinal cord. The drugs numb your nerves to give pain relief in certain areas of your body. Spinals can be used either on their own while you are awake, or in combination with sedation or general anaesthesia. They can also be used after your operation to give effective pain relief.
What does the procedure involve?
Your anaesthetist will insert the needle, inject drugs 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 between one to three hours. The anaesthetist will put enough drugs 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
- Difficulty passing urine
- Loss or change of hearing
- Cardiovascular collapse
- Unexpected high block
- Infection around the spine
- Nerve damage
- Paralysis or death
A spinal can be used for most people, usually giving a safe and effective form of pain relief both during and after your operation.
Author: Dr Iain Moppett DM MRCP FRCA
Illustrations: LifeART image copyright 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. All rights reserved.
This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.