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What Are the Uses of Spinal Anesthesia?

By Nicole Long
Updated May 17, 2024
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Spinal anesthesia helps patients through several different types of procedures. Child birth is the most common situation where it is used. Anesthesia is also injected into the spine during surgeries related to hernias, leg injuries, and hysterectomies.

The lumbar spine, or lower back, is the most common site of injection for spinal anesthesia. During the procedure, a needle is inserted into the cerebral spinal fluid to help numb specific regions of the body. Numbness is a result of blocking nerve pathways in the body. In addition to being a cost effective way to manage pain during specific procedures, the procedure is often tolerable for patients.

Several different types of spinal anesthesia exist. Depending on the desired effect, numbing agents can produce a heavy or light effect. Lidocaine, bupivacaine, and mepivacaine are just a few of the options available to anesthesiologists.

Locally injected anesthesia is an option for surgeries and patients meeting specific criteria. Spinal anesthesia will typically be considered for surgeries that will last less than two hours. Surgeries going longer than that may utilize a spinal anesthetic but may also use general anesthesia to help comfort the patient. For some patients, mental stability may be a concern and sedation should be considered.

Pregnant women may elect to receive an epidural, a form of spinal anesthesia, during labor. This allows a woman to be alert and awake during delivery while reducing the pain associated with child birth. In addition to being an option for a vaginal delivery, epidurals are also appropriate for Caesarean sections.

Patients preparing for hernia surgery can benefit from the relief provided by an injection of anesthesia into the spine. Spinal blocks can allow physicians to repair hernias of the groin on an out-patient basis, leading to faster recovery times. Some hernias can be recurrent, and using a spinal block allows for repeat procedures down the line without the complications and risks associated with general anesthesia and sedation.

Leg injuries and conditions requiring surgery may also benefit from surgery performed under a spinal block. Commonly referred to as regional anesthesia, the procedure can allow patients to undergo surgeries ranging from knee replacements to hip replacements. Sedatives may also be given to the patient to help them sleep or relax during the procedure.

There are other uses for spinal anesthesia. This includes the use of a spinal block during a hysterectomy and operations involving the genitalia. Operations involving urological conditions may also warrant the use of spinal anesthesia.

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