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In most of the operations concerning the lower half of the body (typically below the waist), doctors prefer to go for Spinal Anesthesia. Also known as the Spinal Block, Intrathecal Block, or Subarachnoid Block, spinal anaesthesia involves the injection of local anaesthesia into the lower back (subarachnoid space) into the cerebrospinal fluid (fluid that mainly surrounds the spinal cord) using a fine needle (~ 3.5 inches long). As a result, the nerves connected to the hips, bottom, tummy, and legs are numbed so that the person concerned experience little or no pain during the surgical procedure. 

Spinal anaesthesia is mostly given to patients undergoing

-A C-section delivery.

-Surgery involving the bones of the feet, hips, or legs or the blood vessels of the legs.

-Bladder or prostate surgery

-Gynaecological operations (can be of the vagina, uterus, or the ovary).

What are the pros of this?

Mainly performed by an experienced Anaesthetist, spinal anaesthesia comes with many advantages such as

The lungs are seldom affected nor does an individual complain of breathing difficulties, nausea, or vomiting (often associated with general anaesthesia).

-The pain subsides almost immediately after the operation.

-Following a general anaesthesia, a person experiences difficulties in having his/her meal which is seldom the case in spinal anaesthesia.

-General anaesthesia often gives rise to confusions or hallucinations (especially in the elderly people). Individuals given spinal anaesthesia do not experience such complications.

What are the Side-effects?

The advantages notwithstanding, the spinal anaesthesia is not without its shares of demerits and side-effects

In many instances of spinal anaesthesia, patients experience a dip in their blood pressure, which if not addressed in time may trigger serious complications.

The narcotic drugs and medications used to relieve the pain in spinal anaesthesia can give rise to moderate to severe itching.

The incidences of back pain and bruising (mild to moderate) at the site of the injection are often experienced.

Due to the numbing of the nerves, one of the side-effects of spinal anaesthesia is difficulty in passing of urine. As a result, an individual may be required to use a urinary catheter until the functioning of the bladder improves.

In some instances, the weakness, fatigue, and numbness associated with spinal anaesthesia may last longer than usual (more than 6-8 hours) which can be quite uncomfortable for the affected individual.

Though rare and occasional (~1%-2% of the cases), spinal anaesthesia can trigger a headache which tends to aggravate or worsen when one is in a sitting or a standing position. This headache can be due to the leakage of the cerebrospinal fluid (during the anaesthesia being injected into the CSF). In some cases, the leakage may further lead to a drop in the CSF level around the brain due to which a person may experience a headache. In such instances, a patient is advised proper bed rest with an increased intake of water and healthy fluids.

In extremely rare cases, one can experience a nerve damage with the weakness of muscles and a loss of sensation (both temporary).


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