17 August 2010

What are the advantages of epidurals?

Advantages include pain relief, easier breathing and decrease in general stress response.

Pain relief
When indicated, epidural analgesia is the Rolls-Royce of postoperative pain relief. It can be administered for all types of surgery of the chest, abdomen and legs, but not the neck, arms or head. The latter would involve an epidural effect that reaches too high up, making it impossible to breathe or maintain a normal blood pressure and heart rate. Since the local anaesthetic in the epidural space blocks the nerves where they enter (and leave) the spinal cord, all pain and sensation can be taken away, even while you move or cough.

Less stress on the heart
Pain increases heart rate and blood pressure, which can be harmful to patients with a poor heart and even cause a heart attack. Perfect pain relief with an epidural can therefore decrease the risk of cardiac complications after an operation.


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