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Difference Between Epidural and Spinal

anesthesia_bookEpidural vs Spinal

Both spinal and epidural anesthesia are use to numb a certain area in the human body. They are mainly used during a caesarean section during childbirth. However, they may also be used for other surgeries. Both spinal and epidurals belong to a category of regional anesthesia. They are being increasingly preferred over general anesthesia because they pose fewer risks.

Epidurals and spinals are injected at different places. Both the nerves and the spinal cord are located in a sort of sac that contains cerebrospinal fluids. When your doctor gives you a spinal anesthetic, he injects it directly into this sac. However, when you are getting an epidural, the anesthesia is put outside the sac. The area outside the sac is called the epidural area.

Since they are injected at different places in the body, the time taken for them to become effective also varies. A Spinal acts immediately. The patient initially experiences warmth in the leg and the lower part of the body before the area becomes numb. However, an epidural may take anywhere between 10 and 20 minutes before it becomes effective.

A spinal anesthesia is usually provided at the lower back or the lumbar region. An epidural will be placed in the lower back in case of pelvic or lower body surgeries and in the mid back or the thoracic region for chest surgeries.

A spinal involves a single injection into the spinal sac. However, if you are given an epidural, your doctor may attach a catheter to the area. This is done so that your body can be supplied with the anesthesia throughout the surgery. It may be kept on even after the surgery so that you may continue the pain relieving medications.

A basic problem you may face with a spinal is the onset of headaches or low blood pressure. Though a spinal involves less medicine compared to an epidural, it often causes severe headaches. However, the good news is that this affects only 1% to 3% of patients. The headaches may be a result of the leakage of cerebrospinal fluid through the needle hole left by the injection. This can however be avoided by the use of smaller needles. If you are going for a spinal, you doctor will ask you to lie down flat after the operation. This is done to prevent headaches.

The chances of lasting damages with these anesthetics are very little. Even when there is a chance, you have slightly better odds where a spinal is concerned. The risks of neurological damage are 1 in 150000 for epidurals and 1 in 220000 for spinals.

Summary:
1. Spinals are administered directly into the spinal sac, while epidurals are injected into the area around the sac.
2. Spinals act immediately while epidurals take some time
3. No catheters are attached in a spinal.
4. Spinals need fewer medicines, but may cause more headaches and low blood pressure.
5. Your risks of post operative damage from this anesthesia are slightly lesser when you are going for a spinal.


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