17 August 2010

How long does an epidural work?

The anaesthetist can decide how long an epidural should be effective.

It works for as long as the anaesthetist wants it to work. When performing the epidural injection, a soft, very thin plastic tube (catheter) is passed

through the needle into the epidural space. The needle is removed and the catheter remains behind so that local anaesthetic can be administered through the catheter as long as needed. This happens mostly with a continuous infusion by means of a special pump.

The infusion of local anaesthetic is normally stopped after a few days, and a few hours later the sensation of the affected area will be back to normal.

Reviewed by Prof CL Odendal, senior specialist at the department of anaesthesiology at the University of the Free State, April 2010.

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