Spinal anesthesia is a form of local anesthesia in which an injection of local anesthesia is made in the low middle part of your back. The effects of local anesthesia injected this way are to make you numb and weak from the middle of you down to the tips of your toes. Its very important to know that you will become weak as well as numb so the leg weakness does not surprise and alarm you. The numbness and weakness are part of every spinal anesthetic and will go away when the spinal anesthetic wears off.
To start the spinal anesthesia, the anesthesiologist will ask you to turn on your side and pull your knees up toward your chin. A nurse will help you to get into the proper position. Please try very hard to get into a good position as this makes the injection easier. The doctor will wash your back with an antiseptic solution, then numb a small dot of skin with a bit of local anesthetic placed just under the skin. You will feel pressure as the spinal needle is inserted and nothing as the local anesthesia is injected. When the needle is removed, you will be helped to turn back on your back. Within a minute or two, you will begin to feel warm and tingly, then numb and weak. These sensations will start in your bottom and move down into your legs and up into your abdomen and possibly the low part of your chest. Most people find this a comfortable, though possibly strange feeling. Lynne
With very few exceptions, comfort during spinal anesthesia is perfect. Patients feel nothing and are often surprised to hear that their surgery has begun.
Spinal anesthesia, by itself, will not make you sleepy. Very often patients are sedated during spinal anesthesia. Often a patient can be sedated according to his wishes if he wishes to be very sleepy and unaware of the sites and sounds of surgery, this is usually possible. Sometimes patients may be somewhat aware of the sounds and sights of surgery despite sedation. It may not be possible to safely sedate you to unawareness. Most patients who are frightened of being awake during their surgery when they think about it ahead of time, find that is fine when they are in the operating room and learn that they are perfectly comfortable during surgery.
Some patients prefer to remain awake and aware. This too, is often possible, though patients are discouraged from watching the surgery.
Your anesthesiologist will stay with you the entire time that you are in the operating room with your spinal anesthesia. He will be there to see that you stay comfortable and safe during your surgery.
Spinal anesthesia is a safe form of anesthesia. All anesthetics have risks. The important question is: how does the risk of spinal anesthesia compare to the risk of other forms of anesthesia I might have for my surgery? For some surgeries and for patients with certain special medical problems, spinal anesthesia is clearly a safer choice. For most patients the risk of spinal and general anesthesia is about the same.
Some possible complications of spinal anesthesia include spinal headache, low back ache after recovery from anesthesia, and failure to establish spinal anesthesia. There is a very small but not absent possibility of having permanent nerve damage from spinal anesthesia.
A few patients may experience shivering or nausea during spinal anesthesia, though chances of both are less than with general anesthesia.
Patients sometimes ask, "are you really going to make an injection into my spine?" The answer is no. The spine is the nerve tissue that is connected to the brain. The spinal needle is inserted below where the spine ends. It passes through spaces in the bony vertebral column. You can feel this bony column if you put your hand in the middle of your back. The tip of the needle enters a fluid filled sac that surrounds and protects the spine.