Epidural anesthesia is the most popular method of pain relief during childbirth. Over 50% of women in the US elect to have an epidural when giving birth (1).
Epidurals deliver continuous pain relief by injecting an anesthetic into the space around the spinal nerves in the lower back. The medication numbs the area above and below the injection, which decreases the patient pain sensation while still maintaining the ability to push through labor.
While epidurals are considered to be both safe and effective, it is reported that 13% of epidurals result in unsuccessful or incomplete anesthesia (2). Ineffective anesthesia or side effects can often be linked to complications in the identification of the epidural space. While rare, certain side effects are also possible such as neurological injury and even paralysis. Identifying the epidural space can be more difficult in patients who are obese or pregnant with multiples, making the procedure more challenging for even seasoned doctors. In some occasions, it takes multiple attempts for the anesthesiologist to correctly locate the area which leads to unnecessary patient discomfort and operational inefficiencies.