is pain medication
given into the epidural space, which is just outside your spinal cord
. A catheter (thin, flexible tube) about the size of angel hair pasta is used to give pain medication. Epidural analgesia provides pain relief with fewer side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, and sleepiness. This is similar to what is given to women during childbirth.
Having Your Epidural Catheter Placed
Before you have your epidural catheter placed, you will meet with a pain specialist
. He or she will explain the procedure and answer any questions you have.
You will have an intravenous
(IV) catheter placed in your vein
. You will be attached to equipment to monitor your heart, breathing, and blood pressure. You will be given medication through your IV to make you sleepy.
While you sit on the bed, your doctor will instruct you to bend your back like the letter “C.” He or she will give you an injection of medication to numb the area of your back where the epidural catheter will be placed. It may burn for a few seconds, but then it will get numb. You may feel pressure in your back while your doctor uses a needle to locate the correct area, but you should not feel much pain.
Once the catheter is in place, your doctor will test it with a small amount of medication. Once your doctor sees the medication is working, you will lay back in the bed. No needles will remain in your back, only the catheter.
After Your Epidural Catheter Is Placed
You will receive information about using patient-controlled analgesia
(PCA) from your doctor or nurse
. A pain specialist will see you every day after your surgery. He or she will check your pain level and check your epidural catheter. He or she will adjust your pain medication and/or your catheter to keep you comfortable.