What are the risks of spinal block and epidural anesthesia?


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Martin Tramèr
Head of Division

All medical procedures involve risks, even when they are performed by experts. The rate and severity of these risks depend on your state of health, age or general lifestyle. The anesthesia techniques used are safe. The risks of unexpected and potentially life-threatening complications such as an allergy are extremely small. All necessary measures will be taken to prevent and treat any complications in the best possible way

The following complications could occur during anesthesia:

  • Passing pain in the back or legs that stops when the position of the needle is changed.
  • Falls in blood pressure are common, but are treated immediately.
  • Convulsions, breathing and cardiac difficulties: this occurs when the local anesthetic is accidentally injected into a blood vessel. These effects are rare and can be immediately corrected with medication and breathing assistance.
  • Nerve damage: this complication is rare and generally transient.

The following complications may occur later during the period after surgery:

  • Headaches: these are rare, but may require specific treatment.
  • Urination difficulties: these are rare, but may require a urinary catheter to empty your bladder.
  • Disappearance of the anesthetic effect due to shifting or disconnection of the catheter.
  • Risk of falling if the legs are anesthetized as they lose muscle strength.
  • Infection at the catheter entry point: this requires specific treatment.
  • Other side effects depending on the area operated on: the doctor will have described these effects to you.

Note : there may be other risks if additional treatments or monitoring measures are required. Likewise, the risk connected with the operation itself should be discussed with the surgeon.

If you notice or are concerned by any persistent symptom, make sure to talk to the anesthesia team, your surgeon or your own physician.

Last update : 03/12/2019