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Epidural Catheter

An Epidural Catheter is a thin plastic catheter that is placed into the epidural space within the spinal canal. Through this catheter pain relieving medication can be injected and in some cases other drugs. 
Epidural Catheter

Epidural Catheter

How Does It Work?

Medication given via an epidural catheter works by blocking the nerve signals that travel from where the pain is to the brain. This will provide pain relief without the drowsiness sometimes seen with the use of morphine and similar drugs. Epidural pain relief is used commonly in the Intensive Care Unit after orthopaedic or bone surgery, chest surgery, gynaecological procedures, and surgery to the upper and lower abdominal areas. The medication can be delivered in several ways:

  • A medical officer or nurse will inject pain relievers straight into the epidural catheter;
  • There may be a button which the patient will push by themselves (patient controlled analgsia); or
  • An infusion pump may used, and the patient receives a continuous infusion.

The epidural is easily removed by the nurse when it is no longer required.


Are There Any Complications?

All Intensive Care interventions and procedures carry a degree of potential risk even when performed by skilled and experienced staff. Please discuss these issues with the medical and nursing staff who are caring for the patient.


Any Further Concerns?

Of course, if you have any questions or concerns, please discuss them with the ICU nurses and doctors.

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The information contained on this page is general in nature and therefore cannot reflect individual patient variation. In addition, this information reflects Australian Intensive Care practice which may differ from that in other countries. It is meant as a back up to specific information which will be discussed with you by the Doctors and Nurses caring for your loved one. ICCMU attests to the accuracy of the information contained here BUT takes no responsibility for how it may apply to an individual patient. Please refer to the full disclaimer.



Epidural Catheter Version 1.2
First published June 2004
Reviewed November 2011
Reviewer Kay Johnson CNS  ICCMU

Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 November 2011 10:38