What is Spinal Anesthesia?

Spinal anesthesia is a technique in which the patient is given an injection in the lower back that blocks the nerves that supply feeling to the lower half of the body. The medication is injected into a sac of fluid in your lower back (the subarachnoid space) which contains the spinal nerves. The medication blocks the nerves in the lower half of the body. The loss of feeling is temporary and should last from 1 to 4 hours depending on the medication given and other factors.

What can I expect?
After you are prepared for surgery, you may be given sedation until you are comfortable. When the Operating Room and your surgeon are ready, you will be taken to surgery. Because the spinal anesthetic works rapidly, the injection is usually given in the Operating Room. In the Operating Room the anesthesia team will place monitors on you, give you more sedation, and then place you in the sitting position. The anesthesia provider will wash your back with a sterile solution. After local anesthetic is injected into the skin, a spinal needle is inserted into your lower back and into the sac of fluid that surrounds the spinal nerves. The medication is injected, the needle is removed, and the patient is allowed to lie back down. Although this may sound like a painful procedure, most patients feel only the small sting from the local anesthetic. You may or may not feel pressure in your lower back as the needle is inserted. With the sedation that is given, many patients do not even remember the injection. Once we are sure that the nerves are blocked and the patient is not feeling any pain, the surgery is started. More sedation is given, as needed, throughout the procedure. If at any time during the procedure you feel uncomfortable, simply tell your anesthesia provider so he may adjust your medication. After the surgery, you will be taken to the Recovery Room for about one hour. As the spinal block wears off, you may be given pain medications through your IV (intravenous) line.