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Things to know about C-section anesthesia

When a woman enters an Oregon hospital to have a baby, she relies on a medical team to keep her and her child safe. If she is undergoing a scheduled cesarean section or winds up having one due to an emergency, an important medical decision to make is what type of anesthesia should be administered. Sadly, many birth injuries have been attributed to anesthesia errors.

If a woman receives regional anesthesia to give birth by C-section, the medication is being directed to a particular “region” of her body so that she will not feel pain during surgery. This type of anesthesia, however, does not render a patient unconscious. General anesthesia, on the other hand, puts a patient to sleep.

Epidurals take longer to work than spinal blocks

The “epidural” is the space around the spinal nerves in the lower back. If a woman receives an epidural, the anesthesiologist will use a guide needle to insert a catheter into her epidural region, through which anesthetic drugs will then be administered, numbing the area above and below the injection site. It usually takes longer for an epidural to take effect than it does for a spinal block. For a spinal block, anesthesia is injected directly into spinal cord fluid to cause numbness from the waist down to the toes, which lasts for hours. If a mother or baby is in distress and an emergency arises during childbirth, a spinal block is more likely to be used than an epidural.

Which is safer, regional or general anesthesia?

Administering general anesthesia carries greater risk than using a regional anesthetic for a C-section, although the latter is not without risks of its own. Informed consent is typically required before a patient receives anesthesia for a C-section. Improper use of anesthesia places a mother and her child at risk for issues such as maternal heart problems, fetal oxygen deprivation, postpartum hemorrhage and more. While there’s always a risk involved in childbirth, there is no excuse for substandard care or medical negligence. If a mother or infant has suffered birth injuries attributed to medical  malpractice,  legal recourse is available to hold those responsible accountable for their actions.