Should I Have an Epidural for Surgery?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 January 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
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Whether or not you should have a epidural for surgery recovery or during the operation itself will depend on the type of surgery you are having and how well you handle pain. You may also consider the risks of getting an epidural when compared with other pain relievers. Some patients are not able to tolerate epidurals, while others do not respond properly to the medication. These concerns should be discussed with your doctor prior to your surgery so that all necessary supplies are available when you need them. Once you have considered all your options, it is up to you and your doctor to determine if you should have an epidural for surgery.

The main use of an epidural for surgery is during recovery. Many surgeries have painful recovery times for the first few days. Patients are sometimes given the choice between a medication that is supplied intravenously and an epidural. There are benefits and risks to both, so you should be made aware of them before making your decision.


When using an epidural for surgery recovery, medication is inserted via a needle into an area of the spine. This typically numbs the body from the point of insertion downward. The lower abdomen, legs and feet are immobile and lack sensation until the medication is removed. There are some risks with using an epidural for surgery pain relief, including infection, damage to the nerves or spine, and rarely, paralysis. These typically occur if the needle is inserted incorrectly.

Since other medical interventions are often necessary along with an epidural, the risk of side effects and complications may be higher than with certain other medications. For instance, a catheter is generally needed to drain urine since the patient cannot hold the bladder or stand to use the restroom. This could lead to a great chance of infection in the urinary tract.

Some patients do not respond well to epidural medication. There is no way for you to know ahead of time how you will react unless you’ve previously had an epidural, so it may be a good idea to discuss alternative pain options should you experience any unwanted side effects. Patients have been known to become dizzy or nauseated, or to develop headaches while having an epidural. Others may not respond well to the medication and it may provide little or no pain relief for these individuals.

Once you have been notified of the risks and benefits of having an epidural, it is really up to you whether or not it is the right treatment option. If your doctor says that you are a candidate for this form of pain relief and it sounds like an option you are interested in, it is generally a perfectly acceptable option. Side effects do occur, but severe ones are relatively uncommon and most are not permanent. Only you know your personal preferences, pain tolerance, and beliefs when it comes to pain relief.



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