Epidural risks and complications

Epidural risks and complications

Epidurals have been used for over 40 years for pain in labour and for caesarians with an excellent safety record when given by a Specialist Anaesthetist. They are very effective when other forms of analgesia become inadequate. We hope that you will not require our services but a number of women do require Epidurals or Spinals for pain relief in labour or for an emergency Caesarian Section. It is difficult to discuss potential complications during intense labour. To give informed consent you will need to understand all the information below and download this information sheet. It is a requirement that you understand the information on this sheet, sign both sides of it, and bring it with you to the hospital to be attached to your records. Due to Medico-legal restrictions we will be unable to provide an Epidural if this is not signed prior to labour commencing. Please remember that the vast majority of Epidurals are very effective and free of complications, however the following can occur.

Please phone our rooms if you have any questions.

Possible Short Term Complications

  • Pain on insertion.
  • Injection of local anaesthetic into blood stream with possible fits and/or loss of consciousness or cardiac arrest.
  • Injection of local anaesthetic into spinal fluid with possible large block and the need for an immediate general anaesthetic.
  • Decrease in blood pressure – often slight but occasionally large.
  • Headache – This may require prolonged bed rest or occasionally another special epidural.
  • Allergic reactions (minor or major).

Possible Long Term Complications

  • Chronic (lasting) back pain.
  • Chronic (lasting) headache.
  • Blood clots around spinal cord. This may require surgery and may cause paraplegia.
  • Infection around spinal cord. This may require surgery and may cause paraplegia.
  • Nerve damage with possible weakness, numbness or tingling.
  • Damage to the blood supply to the spinal cord, which can possibly cause paraplegia.

Your anaesthetist has been trained in the speciality and is experienced in Epidurals and Spinals and will provide the best available treatment. Remember that Epidurals are very effective and safe but all the above complications can and have happened.