Spinal Anaesthetic

A spinal anaesthetic is an alternative to a general anaesthetic for operations below your waist. The anaesthetic is injected directly into the fluid sac around your spinal cord and provides immediate pain relief.

What is spinal anaesthetic?

A spinal anaesthetic is performed by an anaesthetist. Spinal anaesthetic is injected directly into the cerebrospinal fluid sac that covers your spinal cord. It is sometimes called a spinal block.

A very fine needle is inserted into your back and guided into the fluid sac surrounding your spinal cord. A local anaesthetic is then injected to numb the nerves that supply your stomach, hips, bottom and legs. It completely numbs your body below and sometimes above the site of the injection. You will not feel any pain from an operation. You will also not be able to move your legs.

Spinal anaesthetic may be used for many surgeries including urology (prostate, bladder or genital operations); orthopaedic (operations on your bones in the hips, legs and feet); gynaecology (womb, vagina or ovary operations); vascular (leg blood vessel operations); general (groin hernia and pile operations; and obstetrics for caesarean section.

Sometimes a spinal anaesthetic is given before a general anaesthetic to provide additional pain relief after surgery.

A spinal anaesthetic may be used instead of general anaesthetic as it presents:

  • less sickness and vomiting
  • earlier return to drinking and eating
  • lower risk of a chest infection
  • less effect on your lungs and breathing
  • good pain relief immediately after surgery
  • reduced need for strong pain-relieving drugs
  • less confusion or groggy feeling after surgery

Are you awake during spinal anaesthesia?

Yes, during a spinal anaesthetic you are awake. You may be:

  • fully awake, or
  • sedated to make you relaxed whilst remaining conscious.

What is the difference between epidural and spinal anaesthesia?

There are some similarities and differences between epidural and spinal anaesthesia. Your anaesthetist will explain this more fully and their recommended anaesthetic for you based on your health, preferences and procedure.

Both epidural and spinal anaesthetic:

  • offer good pain relief
  • are used for surgery of your lower body and legs
  • involve the placement of a needle into your lower back
  • inject pain relief into your back.

The differences between epidural and spinal anaesthetic:

  • For an epidural, pain relief medicines are administered using a small plastic tube called a catheter that allows a continuous flow or periodic doses as needed. A spinal anaesthetic is one injection of pain relief given using a smaller needle.
  • The placement of the pain-relieving drugs. A spinal anaesthetic is injected into the cerebrospinal fluid directly surrounding your spinal cord and has an immediate effect. Epidural anaesthetic is injected into a space outside the cerebrospinal fluid sac, called the epidural space. It takes 10 to 15 minutes for pain relief to take effect as the medication needs to travel through the membrane of your cerebrospinal fluid sac to reach your nerves.

How long does a spinal anaesthetic last?

A spinal anaesthetic usually lasts one to three hours. Your anaesthetist will monitor the drug level in your body and ensure they stay effective throughout your procedure

What is the recovery process after a spinal anaesthetic?

After a spinal anaesthetic, it takes up to four hours for feeling in your lower body to fully return. You will feel tingling as your sensation starts to come back. You may not be able to move your legs until the anaesthetic has worn off and then you might feel unsteady on your feet and lightheaded.

You might feel some post-operation pain too. Ask for pain relief if you need it.

You can go home when the effects have completely worn off and you can walk and move about as normal. You should rest for the remainder of the day.

Do not drive for at least 24 hours after your anaesthetic.

What is the cost of a spinal anaesthetic?

The cost of a spinal anaesthetic will depend on: the exact anaesthetics used; your procedure; and your Ramsay hospital of choice.

You will receive a formal quotation price for your surgery and associated spinal anaesthetic costs, after a consultation with one of our expert surgeons. This formal quote will be valid for 60 days and includes unlimited aftercare.

Spinals are typically covered by health insurance for medically necessary procedures. You should obtain written confirmation from your insurance provider prior to starting your treatment.

For those paying for their surgery and anaesthetic themselves, we have a number of finance options. These include:

  • Interest-free finance – with no deposit and 0% interest monthly instalments.
  • All-inclusive Total Care - a one-off pre-agreed payment for all the treatment and operating drugs you need.
  • Pay as you go – flexible funding if your treatment costs are difficult to assess or you want to pay for your treatment costs as and when they arise.

Spinal Anaesthetic at Ramsay Health Care

Ramsay Health Care works together with leading consultant anaesthetists who are members of The Royal College of Anaesthetists.

Your anaesthetist will help you to decide on the best pain relief for you whilst taking into consideration your preferences and healthcare needs. They are focused on giving you the best quality patient care.

Your local Ramsay Health Care hospital is committed to ensuring excellent safety at all times. All Ramsay hospitals adhere to strict infection control protocols to minimise the risk of infection, including Covid-19.  

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