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Mercy Children's Hospital

Epidural Analgesia

  • The doctor will talk with you immediately following your child’s surgery. It generally takes an additional 20 minutes from that point before your child will enter the Recovery Room.
  • You will join your child in the Recovery Room as soon as he or she is awake.
  • Your child may be attached to heart and respiratory monitors, and may have on a blood pressure cuff and an IV.

Surgery: Epidural Analgesia

Epidural analgesia is one way of giving pain relief after surgery. Medication is given through a thin tube called a catheter that is put into your child’s skin near the backbone. The thin tube is put in by an anesthesiologist before the operation, after your child is asleep or sedated. It is threaded into the epidural space, a small space around the spinal cord, and then taped into place. After surgery, the catheter will be used to give your child pain medication.

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How does it work?

The medicine blocks the pain messages that are being sent from the nerves to the brain. The medication is given around the clock through a pump to provide steady pain control for your child. Epidural medications are given close to the location of the surgery, which allows for smaller amounts of medication to be used right where it is needed. Some children may also have an epidural PCA (patient controlled analgesia). PCA allows your child to get more medicine when they need it by pushing a special button on the pump. The pump is set to prevent too much medicine from being given.

Please know that we cannot take away all of your child's discomfort. Your child will be watched closely by surgeons, anesthesiologists, and nurses to make sure that he/she is as comfortable as possible during their recovery.

Does it hurt to get medication through an epidural catheter?

NO! Most children cannot feel the catheter at all. Your child may have a numb or heavy feeling in the legs or stomach, but can move their legs and toes.

What are the side effects?

Side effects are possible when any medication is given. Because smaller doses of the medication are needed with the epidural medication than IV, side effects are usually limited. The most common side effects are itching, nausea, and vomiting. These are usually mild and other medications can be used to treat these problems. Other side effects include tingling in the legs, difficulty with passing urine, drowsiness, or sleepiness and breathing slower than usual. Nurses will be checking your child's vital signs (temperature, pulse, respirations, blood pressure) frequently. A tube for draining urine from the bladder may be used while the epidural is in place. Your child will most likely be on some type of monitor also. Other possible side effects have to do with the catheter rather than the medicine, these include infection, bleeding, or possible headache.

How long will the catheter be in?

The catheter is left in two to five days, depending on the type of surgery and how your child is recovering. It will be removed by the anesthesiologist when it is no longer needed. Your child will feel the tape coming off, but not the catheter being removed. After the catheter is removed, medicines will be given by mouth or through an IV so that your child will continue to be comfortable.

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