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Spinal, Epidural, and Caudal Anesthesia in Children: Care Instructions

Spinal, epidural, and caudal anesthesia in children: Overview

Spinal, epidural, and caudal anesthesia are used to block pain from an entire area of the body. These pain relief methods are often used for surgeries on the belly, pelvis, or legs.

For spinal, a single shot of medicine is given near the spinal cord. For epidural, medicine is usually given through a small tube (catheter) that's inserted into the area near the spinal cord. This tube is left in place so that more medicine can be given as needed. Caudal anesthesia is a type of epidural that is given as a shot at the tailbone. Sometimes a catheter is also used. Sometimes both spinal and epidural are used. Spinal offers quick pain relief. Then the epidural can offer relief for longer.

Side effects can include a headache, nausea, or soreness at the injection site. In rare cases, nerve damage can cause long-term numbness, weakness, or pain. Serious side effects are rare.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Follow all instructions from your child's doctor about how to take care of the area that was numbed.
  • Make sure your child doesn't injure the area while it's still numb.
    • Remind them that if they move the area, to move it slowly and carefully.
    • Be careful with hot and cold. Since your child won't feel pain, it's easier for damage from heat or cold to happen.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has new or worse back pain.
  • Your child has increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness at the injection site.
  • Your child won't stop crying or seems very irritable.
  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child has a new or worse headache.
  • Your child has a stiff neck.
  • Your child has tingling, weakness, or numbness in their legs or groin.
  • Your child has trouble urinating or can pass only very small amounts of urine.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.