How does an epidural catheter work?

A stream of numbing medication runs through the epidural catheter. In some cases, it also contains pain medication. The numbing medication blocks pain signals that nerves in the spine send to the body.

If your child has pain medication added, there is a button on the catheter he can press. The button releases medication in controlled doses. This is only if your child feels strong periods of pain.

How is an epidural catheter placed?

How a doctor places an epidural catheter depends on your child’s age.

  • For babies and young children, the epidural catheter is placed under general anesthesia (medication to help your child sleep safely and comfortably) in an operating room.
  • For school-aged children, teens and young adults, the catheter is placed one of 2 ways. The first way is while they are asleep under general anesthesia. The second is while they are awake, but comfortable under sedation (medication to help your child feel relaxed).
Rev. 4/2018. Reviewed by the MGHfC Family Advisory Council. This webpage is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.