Spinal Anaesthesia is where the anaesthetic is injected into the fluid just outside the spinal cord in your back rendering the lower half of the body numb to pain and feeling. The anaesthetic typically wears off in 2 – 4 hours, however pain relief may last for periods of up to 24 hours.
Indications for this technique include surgical procedures to the lower body and in combination with general anaesthesia to provide analgesia for upper abdominal surgery. Depending on the type of operation and your own medical condition, a spinal anaesthesia may sometimes be safer for you and suit you better than a general anaesthetic.
A Spinal starts to work within 3-5 minutes. Initially you may feel a degree of warmth in your legs followed by pins and needles in one or both of your legs. You will be asked to lie flat as the spinal block continues to work. Following the loss of these sensations your legs will be “numb” to touch and after approximately 10 minutes you will be unable to move your legs. You will feel no pain below the waistline at this stage.
Whilst the anaesthetic is taking effect your vital signs, including blood pressure, will be monitored closely.
The numbness and weakness may take several hours to wear off. During this period of time the nurses who are involved in your recovery will take special care to protect the numb area from pressure and injury.
As the spinal wears off you may experience some tingling in the skin and you may initially require assistance with mobilising. Remember to ask for help. You can normally drink fluids within an hour of the completion of surgery and you may have a light diet.
Modern anaesthesia is generally very safe. Unfortunately with every anaesthetic technique, there is a possibility of unwanted side effects or complications. These may be unpleasant but can be treated and usually do not last long.
Common side effects of Spinal Anaesthesia are: