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What is an epidural block?

An epidural block is a type of regional anesthesia that blocks pain sensation in the legs, abdomen or chest. An epidural block involves injecting a local anesthetic near certain spinal nerves to numb a specific area of your body. 

Doctors use epidural blocks for many surgeries and procedures. It is an important tool used to manage pain while you remain awake or lightly sedated. Your doctor also use epidural blocks with deep sedation and general anesthesia. 

Your spinal cord runs up and down through the spinal column in your back. The spinal column contains a stack of bones called vertebrae (backbones). Nerves branch off your spinal cord through the spaces between the vertebrae and run out to all areas of your body. These nerves bring pain sensations back to your spinal cord, where they travel to the brain. An epidural block stops pain sensations from reaching the brain so you do not feel them.  

An epidural block is only one method used to provide regional anesthesia. Discuss all your anesthesia options with your doctor to understand which option is right for you.  

Medical Reviewers: Daphne E. Hemmings, MD, MPH Last Review Date: Jul 12, 2013

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Medical References

  1. Pile, JC. Evaluating postoperative fever: A focused approach. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. 2006;73 (Suppl 1):S62.
  2. Regional Anesthesia and Analgesia for Surgery. American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine.
  3. Spinal and Epidural Anesthesia. Aurora Health Care.

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