Epidural pain management is used to treat people with chronic pain from surgeries or ongoing medical issues. It is also used to ease the pain of childbirth. A syringe is put in the patient's back in a place called the epidural space, which is the space around the spinal cord. The syringe is then hooked to a pump that releases pain medication.
An epidural is put in by a trained anesthesiologist. This short procedure is done in an operating room so that it takes place in a sterile environment. The doctor usually uses a local anesthesia before putting in the needle for the epidural. Epidural pain management can be a good choice for many patients because it only takes a few minutes to put in place and medicine can be administered immediately.
The medication is designed to reduce inflammation of the nerves, which will ease pain. The epidural can be left in the back for long-term pain management. Sometimes the pain medication is released automatically by a machine, and other times the patient is given a button to push that releases the medication as he or she needs it. The button is called patient-controlled analgesia (PCA). A PCA pump contains a fixed dose of medication and a timer so that the patient does not administer too much at one time.
Patients who are good candidates for epidural pain management are those that have pain in the back or legs. It is often used for patients who have surgery and will remain in the hospital for a while afterward. Epidurals are most often used for women who need relief during childbirth, so this population can benefit from epidural pain management as well.
Even though most people feel pain relief from using epidural pain management, it does have some side effects and risks. The most common side effect from an epidural is that it can cause the patient to have no feeling below the waist, leaving the patient with the inability to walk. There is always a risk of infection, low blood pressure, and breathing issues. Patients should report any negative side effects to their doctors immediately.
If a doctor recommends epidural pain management, then most health insurance companies will cover it. Epidural pain management can be very expensive if it is paid for out of pocket. It is important for patients to discuss the cost, side effects, and risks of using an epidural before it is administered.