Saturday, May 03, 2008

Epidural testing

I put in a thoracic epidural with a resident yesterday.

Epidurals are small catheters that go into the space right outside the spinal cord. We give local anesthetic solution through them and it numbs up portions of the body. They are useful for controlling surgical and labor pain. We test them to make sure they are working well. One way is to use a piece of ice and see if the patient can feel the coolness. The other is to use a "sophisticated testing device" called a toothpick to see if they can feel pain sensation.

We finished putting in the epidural and I asked the resident to test the patient. She was testing areas and the patient was amazed that she could not feel the toothpick at all...

"Give me that..." she grabbed the toothpick and started jabbing herself in the side. "Wow" Somehow she believed that we weren't actually poking her with the toothpick.

It's the first time I had a patient test themselves.

The epidural was working.

The patient decided to take the toothpick home. She gave it to her husband. "Don't throw that away... and don't use it."