Epidural Infusions

What is an epidural infusion?

An epidural infusion is a way of giving pain medicine. The medicine is given through a small tube called a catheter into the epidural space. The epidural space goes from the bottom of the skull to the tip of the tailbone. While your child is asleep, the doctor will put a catheter into your child’s back.

Epidural Infusion
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A tiny tube is inserted between two vertebrae in the spine. The epidural space is the space around the spinal cord and nerves. The tube delivers anesthesia medication into the epidural space during the operation and for a time after.
How does an epidural infusion work?

The epidural catheter is connected to a special pump. This pump is always putting some pain medicine into the catheter. Then the medicine goes into your child’s back. The pain medicine surrounds the nerves in your child's spine. Your child will get this medicine during the operation and for a time after it.

A clear bandage or dressing keeps the catheter in place.

Monitoring during the infusion

While your child is taking the medicine, the nurses will watch for any problems. The nurses will check your child’s blood pressure and heart rate. Your child's movement and feeling to the legs and parts of the body will also be monitored. The nurses will also check the area in your child's back where the catheter is.

While the epidural infusion is in place, the nurses will try to get your child to move her legs and to turn from side to side in bed. Your child will also be on a heart and breathing rate monitor to watch for any side effects.

Checking and adjusting for pain

Your child’s nurse will regularly ask your child how well the medicine is working. Your child may feel some pain.

If your child has pain, the doctor may increase the amount of medicine for the pain or change the type of medicine that your child gets. The doctor may also give medicine by mouth (orally) in addition to the epidural infusion.

Your child may have the epidural infusion for a few days

Epidural infusions are usually given for 1 to 3 days. The length of time will depend on the type of operation and the amount of pain that your child has.

When it is time to take out the catheter, it will be gently pulled out. It does not hurt to remove the catheter. Some children may not like the dressing tape being gently removed from around the catheter.

Your child will then get pain medicine through the existing intravenous (IV) line or as a pill or liquid that she can swallow. An IV is a small tube that is put into a vein in your child's arm or leg to give medicine or fluids.

Side effects from an epidural infusion

Side effects are problems caused by the medicine. The side effects your child may have depends on the kind of medicine that she gets. Most side effects from epidural infusions are not serious.

Your child may have some of these problems:

  • feeling nauseated or sick to the stomach
  • throwing up (vomiting)
  • itchiness of the face, neck, chest or back
  • weakness or numbness of the legs
  • problems with urination (passing urine or peeing)

Other medicines can help with these side effects.

For more information

Please ask your child’s nurse or doctor if you have any questions.

Key points

  • An epidural infusion uses a catheter to put pain medicine directly in around the nerves of the spine.
  • Your child will be checked for any problems while she has the infusion.
  • An epidural infusion usually lasts from 1 to 3 days.
  • Most side effects from an infusion are not serious.

Lorraine Bird, RN, BScN, APN

Basem Naser, MBBS, FRCPC

Lori Palozzi, RN, MScN, ACNP