An epidural catheter is a small tube that is inserted into the epidural space of the lower back. It is used to give anaesthetic agents and pain medications. The epidural space is a fluid filled channel just outside the spinal cord. Epidural catheters are often used to provide pain relief during labour and delivery. They can also be inserted and left in place for a few days following certain types of major surgeries or traumatic injuries.

Patient Controlled Analgesia is the delivery of a medication by a special type of infusion pump that allows the patient to deliver a dose of medication when they feel pain.

Patient Controlled Analgesia has been shown to provide more consistent pain control (fewer episodes of unsatisfactory pain relief). At the same time, the total amount of medication given and the risk for over medicating is reduced. It is used following some large surgeries, however, it is not useful in patients who are unconscious or require very deep levels of analgesia or sedation. The patient must be able to activate the device.

Patient Controlled Analgesia is often delivered by an intravenous infusion, but it can also be delivered by an epidural catheter. Epidurals and intravenous infusions can also be delivered at a constant infusion rate.


Image 1: Epidural catheter