Birth delivery usually comes with pain that every pregnant woman must bear. To ease this process, many women opt for pre-labor courses like hypnobirthing and hypnobabies. However, one of the medical options is using epidural injections.
Epidural injections are procedures that a physician uses to reduce pain before surgery or child delivery. Many people have been scared off by the prospect of having an epidural during delivery because of the concept of having a physician insert needle into their backs. However, the process is beneficial for childbirth.
In this guide, you will learn everything on epidural needle size. You’d also know the procedure it’s used for and its applications to pregnancy.
What is an epidural needle?
An epidural needle is one that a physician inserts into the epidural area before surgery. Epidural analgesia or anesthesia can be maintained by inserting a tiny hollow catheter into the epidural space and leaving it there when the epidural needle is withdrawn. To guarantee sterility, current treatment in wealthy nations uses disposable items such as epidural needles and catheters.
The curved tip of epidural needles helps to prevent penetration of the dura mater. However, in up to 85% of patients, a postoperative headache is the result of an inadvertent dural puncture.
You can reduce the frequency of headaches in the event of an unintentional dural perforation by locating the epidural space with the needle bevel orientated perpendicular to the longitudinal dural fibers.
What is an epidural?
An epidural is a process where a healthcare professional injects a local anesthetic into the region around the spinal nerve in your lower back to reduce pain.
The anesthetic in the procedure is efficient in blocking the pain of labor contractions and childbirth. Anesthesiologists are the professionals in charge of epidurals in the hospital.
Epidural procedure in pregnancy
In most cases, you will be given a drip of fluids in your arm prior to an epidural.
Alternatively, you can lie down on your side and curl up into a ball. Allows for the needle to be put in the correct location.
You will be given a cool antiseptic wash on your lower back area. Your lower back will be injected with a modest dose of local anesthetic. The region surrounding your spinal nerves will be injected using a needle that is put between your spine’s bones. Your anesthesiologist will place the epidural needle when your contractions have stopped, so it is critical that you notify them when you feel one.
Afterward, the needle will be withdrawn and a tiny, flexible plastic tube will be introduced. The anesthesia is delivered through this tube, which reduces your discomfort.
The epidural normally relieves your discomfort within 5 to 30 minutes.
Epidurals are most commonly used during the initial stage of labor, although they can be administered at any point.
Epidural needle size comparison
There are numerous types of epidural needles that doctors use for the procedure. They are:
- The Tuohy Needle
- The Crawford Needle
- The Weiss Needle
- The Hustead Needle
- The Sprotte Spezial Needle
‘Tuohy’ needles are the most popular among the rest. As a result of the Tuohy needle’s unusual design, anesthesiologists are able to control the epidural catheter as it exits the needle tip.
Epidural catheter insertion is made easier by this. When an anesthetic substance is injected via the epidural catheter, it reaches the nerves that control the specific portion of the body that has to be paralyzed.
When the needle is injected into the skin, the stylet stays within the needle. Using this stylet, a skin plug will not be able to obstruct the needle from entering the cavity.
You may choose from a wide range of needles for Epidural injections. Using this fluctuation in the length and diameter of the epidural needle helps the needle to identify the epidural area in the spinal canal from the patient’s back, where the pain treatment should be administered.
Small tubes are inserted into the epidural space (the region between vertebrae in the spine) to administer a local anesthetic to the patient.
So, why are epidural needles so much larger than hypodermic ones? It all comes down to a little plastic tube, termed a ‘epidural catheter,’ that may be inserted into the epidural area with a needle.
The epidural catheter can stay in the ‘epidural space’ and be used to give an anesthetic medicine at will. Patients can expect good pain relief for a long period of time because of this.
The ‘gauge of the epidural needle is used to describe the thickness of the epidural needle.
An epidural needle with a smaller diameter is possible with a higher-gauge needle. The most frequent epidural needle used in adults is an 18G (thinner) or 16G (thicker).
To do an epidural injection, the needle must be able to reach the epidural space from the patient’s back.
Pregnant women’s skin-to-space distance is roughly 4.9cm on average. 8cm is a popular needle length (see photo above).
In obese patients, a lengthier epidural needle may be necessary to access the area.
Benefits of using an epidural during pregnancy
Using an epidural during childbirth has many advantages, including it is usually very effective, it’s generally very safe, and it allows you to sleep and recover your strength if you’re having a caesarean section. You can stay awake and your partner can be there, and it allows both of you to recuperate from childbirth.
Helps you rest: Relief from the discomforts of childbirth might help you obtain a good night’s sleep. This is especially useful if your labor is expected to be lengthy. Relaxation and pain avoidance are also helpful in having a better delivery experience.
Helps keep you alert: An epidural can keep you awake so that you can participate actively in the childbirth process. If forceps or a vacuum are necessary to help deliver your baby, it might help to ease your suffering. An epidural is a great option if you’re having a C-section and want to be awake and comfortable during the process.
Risks of epidural during pregnancy
An epidural is a safe and effective treatment option. The downside is that there are potential dangers to this strategy.
- Only a small percentage of women are given adequate pain treatment.
- A skin infection is a remote possibility.
- Occasionally, a small number of women suffer lasting nerve injury.
- After a few hours, the limb weakness subsides in some women.
- The use of forceps or a vacuum during childbirth is more likely.
- Some ladies experience chilly or itching sensations.
- After an epidural, some women experience severe headaches over the next 24 to 48 hours.