Epidural anaesthesia, often referred to as "an epidural", is an injection in the back that numbs the nerves and stops you feeling pain.

Areas that can be numbed by an epidural include the:

  • chest
  • abdomen
  • pelvic area
  • legs

How an epidural works

Anaesthetic medicine is injected into an area of the spine known as the epidural space.

The anaesthetic works by numbing pain nerves as they enter the spinal cord.

The extent of the numbness will depend on the type of drug used, and the amount injected. Once the medication has worn off, feeling in the affected areas will return.

However, as with many medical procedures, there are some associated risks that, although small, you should be aware of before deciding whether to have an epidural. Two possible risks include:

  • puncture of the dura the toughest, outer layer surrounding the spinal cord and brain; the risk of the dura being punctured is about one in 100
  • nerve damage which occurs only very rarely


Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 4 Jan 2017