What is an Epidural?
An epidural is a way to manage your child's pain after surgery. The epidural may be placed by the anesthesiologist after your child is asleep. Your child will be turned to his or her side, and the lower back will be washed. A small, soft plastic tube is placed in the lower back. The medication for pain will be given through this tube. The nurse and the anesthesiologist will set up a special pump that gives your child pain medicine 24 hours a day.
A clear bandage will cover the tubing over the lower back. The tubing will be taped to the shoulder with a gauze bandage.
Purpose of an Epidural
An epidural is used for pain relief for your child after major surgery. The anesthesiologist, surgeon and you will talk and decide if this is the best way to control your child's pain.
The epidural can provide pain relief with less sleepiness. With an epidural, your child may hurt less when getting up in the chair or walking after surgery. This kind of activity is important for healing after surgery.
The epidural is usually used for two to three days after surgery. When your child is able to drink, he or she will be given pain medicine to take by mouth, and the epidural medicine will be stopped. The anesthesiologist on the pain team will discuss with you how long the epidural will be used. The epidural tubing is removed by a member of the pain team service. There is no pain when the tube is removed. Some discomfort may occur when the tape is removed.
Your Child and the Epidural
On the first afternoon of surgery, your child may feel numbness in his or her legs and in the area of the body below the waist. Your child may say he or she cannot feel their legs.
Foam booties will be given to your child to protect the heels. These special slippers must be worn at all times while your child is in bed. When sensation returns to the legs and feet, your child may stop wearing the booties except when sleeping.
The morning after surgery, your child should be able to move his or her legs and be able to walk. Sitting in the chair, walking and being held can be done with the help of your nurse. If your child has an epidural, it will not prevent you from holding and cuddling him or her.
Having an epidural may cause itching of the skin. Your child might also complain of an upset stomach. Medications can be given to your child to reduce itching or nausea. It is important to let your nurse or a member of the pain treatment service know if nausea or itching becomes a problem.
Questions and Concerns about the Epidural
A member of the pain team service will see your child every day while the epidural is in place. The nurse caring for your child can call the pain service 24 hours a day.
The anesthesiologist should answer your questions before the epidural is used. Feel free to ask questions any time.