Spinal anesthesia is a fairly recent development in the medical world which dates back to the mid-nineteenth century. The first spinal anesthesia was performed on a dog using cocaine which was also the substance used for the first spinal anesthesia injections on human beings. It is a common surgical procedure today.
Although spinal anesthesia is a very helpful surgical aid, it also has a downside. Here we look at both sides of the coin for an unbiased viewpoint on the subject.
Cost effective: Compared with the cost of general anesthesia, spinal anesthesia is much cheaper as less drugs and equipment are involved.
Conducive to respiratory disease: This procedure will not pose a risk to patients with respiratory problems as is the case with general anesthesia.
Patient-friendly: If performed properly, the overall experience for the patient is satisfying, as the patient is aware of what is being done throughout the procedure and there is a rapid recovery with minimal side-effects.
Clear air passage: The risk of obstruction of the airway is minimized as nothing needs to be inserted into this passage.
Good for diabetics: Diabetics have less chance of developing hypoglycemia and they can return to their regular diet and medication soon after the operation.
Maximum relaxation of muscles: The injection of spinal anesthesia provides for excellent relaxation of the muscles for lower limb and lower abdominal surgery.
Lesser bleeding: The level of blood loss during surgery using spinal anesthesia is comparatively less than when general anesthesia is used.
Better bowel movements: Even though the bowel contracts during spinal anesthesia and the sphincter relaxes, peristalsis continues. Hence normal bowel movements are resumed faster.
Coagulation: Coagulation-related conditions like pulmonary emboli and deep vein thromboses are less likely to occur as a result of spinal anesthesia.
Difficulty anesthizing the exact point: Difficulty is experienced sometimes in locating the epidural space, and in rare cases, the procedure has to be abandoned.
Risk of hypertension: There is a risk of development of hypertension.
Psychological effect: It can be disturbing for some patients to be operated on while fully conscious.
Risk of infection: If equipment is not sterilized properly, there is a chance of infection like meningitis.
Although there is less likelihood of any major side effects, a few side-effects are known to occur. The most common side effect is headache caused by leakage of cerebro-spinal fluid.
Other side effects may be low blood pressure, painful bladder, and neurological damage leading to backache. In some very rare cases, decrease in sexual function and allergic reaction have been observed.