I’m going to be honest: the images in this post are making my back ache. I’ve had three epidurals, followed by spinal anesthesia that left me with a blinding headache. When it came to anesthesia, I trusted my doctor’s advice and failed to do my own research.

Once I had that headache and I realized it was so my new obstetrician could save time, I realized I can never blindly trust my doctor without doing a little research on my own before I consent.

You should always learn what the complications of any type of spinal anesthesia are before you agree to it. Routine surgeries now turn to spinal anesthesia to combat pain. It is a cost effective and safe approach when compared to other forms of anesthesia, but sometimes these simple procedures have serious consequences.

What Occurs During Spinal Anesthesia?

Spinal Anesthesia for a pregnant womanSpinal anesthesia is used so you can undergo surgery or deliver a baby with less pain and while remaining alert. It is provided through a needle that is inserted into the spine. There, the medicine combines with the spine’s fluid, numbing the body almost instantly.

This procedure is effective for short and less complicated surgical procedures. Patients remain awake after receiving this form of anesthesia, but they feel no pain. Some patients may also receive a sedative to keep them calm. 

Complications of Spinal Anesthesia

Although many complications of spinal anesthesia are temporary, some may be serious enough to result in long-term or permanent damage. This is especially true if the anesthesiologist made a mistake. Those who are injured by negligent errors may be able to file a malpractice claim. Click here to learn how to determine and prove liability in personal injury cases.

Although complications are rare, there are multiple risks associated with spinal anesthesia, especially for pregnant women. The following are some of the more common complications.

Postdural Puncture Headache

A common side effect of spinal anesthesia is postdural puncture headache, which affects about 32% of patients. This occurs when the lumbar is punctured during application and generally disappears within 14 days. In some instances, however, these headaches can last months.

This severe side effect may immobilize some patients because of the pain radiating through the head, neck and shoulders. If left untreated, postdural puncture headaches can lead to serious health complications, including seizures.

Urinary Retention

Urinary retention occurs when the bladder doesn’t empty. It is one of several spinal cord anesthesia side effects. As the bladder enlarges, other issues occur. Kidney failure or damage and unhealthy blood pressure levels are two severe consequences of untreated urinary retention.

Although patients who receive spinal anesthesia may suffer from acute urinary retention, which disappears, others experience chronic urinary retention. This is a condition you’ll have to treat with long-term medication use.

Cardiac Arrest

A rare consequence of spinal anesthesia is cardiac arrest. Researchers debate the cause and frequency of cardiac arrests associated with spinal anesthesia. Some sources estimate cardiac issues stemming from this form of anesthesia happen only once in every 1,000 cases. Unfortunately, brain damage and death occur in most of these incidences.

Nerve Damage

Nerve damage is another negative health implication. While some patients experience temporary nerve damage, more serious cases have lifelong repercussions. Chronic effects include paralysis and an inability to control the bladder. Nerve damage results from infections, damage due to the needle insertion, blood clots, and other factors.


Meningitis, or the inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, may also occur. Those who experience meningitis have a high risk of mortality and other severe side effects, including neurological complications.

The infection is usually caused by improper technique on the administrator’s part or by an infection that was already in the individual’s system at the time the anesthesia occurred. After the anesthesia is applied, the infection is able to spread throughout the body.  

Don’t Ignore Complications

Other complications such as bleeding and allergic reactions originate with spinal anesthesia. If you suffer from any conditions following anesthesia, speak to an attorney. They can help you learn if your injury is the result of medical malpractice.


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