The nerves to your body are all connected to your spinal cord, which can be regarded as an extension of your brain. Local anaesthetic applied to the space around the spinal cord (an epidural) or injected into the fluid surrounding the spinal cord (a spinal) will anaesthetise a large area of the lower body depending on how much is injected and where it is injected.
This form of anaesthesia has a number of excellent advantages.
- Firstly your brain and heart are not affected to any extent so that you remain awake and there is very little danger of the strength of your heartbeat being diminished. When a Caesarean Section is done in this way the mother can hold and appreciate her baby within minutes of delivery, so that a strong bond is formed between the two.
- Secondly, the effect on the nerve fibres that conduct pain and touch is greater than that on those which affect movement, so that during labour for example, the pain of the contractions can be controlled but the mother can still move about.
- Thirdly, the duration of analgesia is long-lasting so that no other drugs are necessary for pain relief for up to many hours after the operation, thus avoiding the side effects of drugs such as morphine, which has the side effects of drowsiness and nausea.
The effect of epidural anaesthetic on the body: