Complications after Spinal or Epidural Anaesthetic - Nerve Damage - Prevention

What can be done to prevent nerve damage?

Anaesthetists are trained to be aware of nerve damage. Steps taken to prevent each kind of damage are described here.

Direct injury

  • All anaesthetists performing epidural and spinal injections are trained in these techniques.
  • Spinal injections are placed below the expected lower end of the spinal cord. This should prevent damage to the spinal cord itself.
  • Spinal injections are usually performed while you are awake or lightly sedated. If there is pain or tingling due to contact with a nerve, you will be able to warn the anaesthetist who will then be able to adjust.

Haematoma blood clot

  • If you take a medicine (an anticoagulant) to thin your blood, such as warfarin, you will be asked to stop it several days before surgery if your doctors think it is safe to do so.
  • If you take clopidogrel (another medicine which thins the blood by its effect on platelets), you will usually be asked to stop it several days before planned surgery. For urgent surgery, your doctors will think about whether it is safer for you to have or to avoid a spinal or epidural injection.
  • If you take aspirin, you can have an epidural or spinal injection.

Infection

All epidural and spinal injections are performed under 'aseptic conditions' (this means using special precautions to make the procedure as clean as is possible), similar to those used during the operation. Your back should be kept clean and regularly checked over the following few days.

General care

If you have an epidural or spinal injection, the nurses will make regular checks until everything returns to normal. This should help spot any possible nerve damage very early so that treatment can be started immediately if needed.

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Author:
Dr Colin Tidy
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Jennifer Hares
Document ID:
29007 (v3)
Last Checked:
22 May 2017
Next Review:
01 June 2020

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.