5 Common Spinal Block Complications

Category: Injections | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: June 28, 2016

spinal nerve block

A spinal block is a type of local anesthesia that is administered into the fluid of the spinal column. There are different locations that the injection can be placed depending on the anesthesiologist preferred method. The goal of the block is to numb the back so the surgeon can operate while the patient is still conscious. This can be done for individuals that cannot undergo anesthesia due to health concerns. The numbness is almost immediate and can last for quite some time depending on the dose administered. Unfortunately complications from an injection can arise. Here’s a look at five common complications from spinal blocks.

Before we dive into the list, it’s important to know that while these are the most common types of complications overall, complication rates from spinal injections are very low. When they occur, it’s usually one of these five problems.

Pain

Pain is probably the most common complication after a spinal block because eventually the anesthesia is going to wear off, and you may experience minor to mild discomfort from the operation or at the injection site itself. Spine physicians may prescribe some mild pain relievers if pain occurs after an injection/operation.

Headaches

Spinal block headaches tend to occur between 12 to 24 hours after the spinal block has been administered. This type of headache is caused by leaking of your spinal fluid, which can occur during a spinal injection. Like pain, spinal block headaches can oftentimes be treated with lying flat. For headaches that do not go away a blood patch may need to be applied by an anesthesiologist.

Nerve Damage

In rare instances a person who receives a nerve block may develop long lasting nerve damage. This is more of an issue to be wary of in elderly patients who may experience a prolonged drop in blood pressure during their nerve block. Doctors always take age and physical fitness into account when preparing a spinal nerve block.

Infections

Infections resulting from a spinal block aren’t common, but they can lead to serious issues should they arise. The spine is a sensitive and essential structure. An infection in the spine has the ability to travel to the brain or cause abscess to develop in the spinal column. Strong antibiotics are used to treat spine and brain infections. Doctors work to reduce the risk of an infection by performing the injections in a sterile area, using a sterile technique and disinfected tools.

Excessive Block

Medicine is no longer the guessing game it once was, so excessively administered spinal blocks are extremely rare. Should you receive too much anesthesia, the medicine can travel up the spine and cause disruptions in the chest and neck area, sometimes rendering the patient unable to breathe. This is an extremely rare event, but nonetheless, patients are always monitored with equipment to measure their vital signs to catch an issue at the earliest stage so doctors can take preventative measures to prevent complications from a total block.

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