An epidural (meaning ‘above the dura’) is a form of local anaesthetic used to completely block pain while a patient remains conscious. It involves the careful insertion of a fine, long needle deep into an area of the spine between two vertebrae of the lower back.
This cavity is called the epidural space. Anaesthetic medication is injected into this cavity to relieve pain or numb an area of the body by reducing sensation and blocking the nerve roots that transmit signals to the brain.
The resulting anaesthetic medication causes a warm feeling and numbness leading to the area being fully anaesthetised after about 20 minutes. Depending on the length of the procedure, a top-up may be required.
This form of pain relief has been used widely for many years, particularly post- surgery and during childbirth.