Health Library
Spinal Block

What is a Spinal Block?

A spinal block is a one-time shot (injection) of numbing medicine in your child’s lower back. The medicine blocks pain from the belly button down to the feet. It will also help decrease the pain after a procedure.

Spinal Block vs. General Anesthesia

A spinal block is a numbing medicine. General anesthesia uses medicine that makes you “sleep.” Your child will not need general anesthesia. Your child will be awake during their procedure (surgery). Our team will comfort and support your child. Many children are so comfortable that they fall asleep during the procedure. If needed, a small amount of sedation medicine can be given for comfort. General anesthesia is always available as a backup plan.

Spinal Nerve Block Injection

Before the injection, the nurse will place numbing medicine on the skin of your child’s back. This medicine will lessen the pain of the needle injection.

In the operating room, your child will be held in a sitting position for the spinal block. The lower back is cleaned. An anesthesia provider uses a small needle to inject the medicine. This usually takes less than a minute.

If an IV is not in place or started in prep, an IV will be started in the operating room. When possible, the IV will be placed in a numbed area (like the foot).

After A Procedure with a Spinal Block

After the procedure, your child will be moved to the recovery room (Post Anesthesia Care Unit) for a short time. Your child will continue to be numb and have decreased leg movement for up to 6 to 8 hours. They will slowly begin to move their legs. Your child’s nurse will watch them until their leg movement starts to return.

A spinal block relieves pain during and after the procedure for up to 6 to 8 hours. As the spinal block wears off, your child may show signs of discomfort. Your child’s provider will recommend pain relief medicine for after the procedure.

Most children can go home. Some children may need an overnight stay. Limit and support your child’s activities when the spinal block wears off as they may continue to be weak and numb.

What Are The Benefits of a Spinal Block?

A spinal block lowers the risks of problems related to general anesthesia and opioids. These benefits are especially important for young children or children with complex medical histories.

Benefits include:

  • Pain control during and after the procedure
    • No opioids (narcotics) needed
    • Over-the-counter pain relief medicine is enough for most children
  • No need for general anesthesia
    • No breathing tube
    • Breathing is normal
  • Recover faster
    • Return to eating and drinking sooner
  • Lower risk for
    • Low blood pressure
    • Heart or breathing problems

What Are The Risks of a Spinal Block?

Risks with a spinal block are low. Possible problems include:

  • Bleeding, bruising or mild soreness at injection site
  • Infection
  • Breathing issues if the medicine goes too high (up the spine)
  • Failure to relieve pain
  • Leak or small collection of fluid in the lower back. This fluid usually goes away on its own.
  • Headache due to fluid leak (not common in small children)
  • Nerve damage (very rare)

Last Updated 09/2022