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Anesthesia

Is spinal like epidural, for cesarean section

04/03/2006

Question:

Does a spinal numb you only from the waist down just like the epidural? And are c-sections safe?

Answer:

The effect of a spinal anesthetic is quite similar to the effect of an epidural. The "height" of an epidural or spinal anesthetic depends on how much anesthetic medication is injected through the epidural catheter. Similarly, the height of a spinal depends on how much anesthetic is injected through the spinal needle. Your anesthesiologist will decide, based on the operation that is to be performed, how much medication to use. With a cesarean section, the aim is to have the level of numbness around the "nipple line" - that is an imaginary line across the chest at the level of the nipples.

One of the main differences is that an epidural anesthetic can be made to last a long time by injecting more medication into the epidural catheter. The effect of a spinal anesthetic cannot be lengthened - the medication is injected through the needle, and the needle is then withdrawn. Epidural and spinals are equally safe for cesarean sections and are considered to be safer than general anesthesia for this operation.

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Response by:

Gareth S Kantor, MD Gareth S Kantor, MD
Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University