ZocdocAnswersCan epidurals cause fevers?

Question

Can epidurals cause fevers?

My sister just gave birth to a healthy, 8 pound boy. Everything went well during the course of labor, but she's had a fever since then. She got it in her head that it was caused by the epidural they gave her. Is this possible? She's still in the hospital, so there's no danger, but we want to know the real side-effects of an epidural.

Answer

An epidural is a catheter that is placed in the space around the spinal cord. It delivers medication that numbs up the nerves that cause pain and is used to treat many different types of pain, including the pain from childbirth. Although it is a well tolerated procedure, there are many possible side effects. Bleeding and headache after improper epidural placement can occur. In your sister's case, it appears that the epidural placement was uncomplicated. It is usually placed in a sterile fashion and only remains in for a few hours so the infectious risk is low. However, anytime there is a foreign object placed in the body, there is a chance of having an infection. An epidural site infection can be a result of local skin infection (cellulitis) or a deeper soft tissue or paraspinal infection. Both of these usually present with additional signs, including redness at the site of the epidural or severe back pain. If the epidural has not been removed, it should be removed immediately. In addition, a number of tests should be checked to rule out bloodstream infection. There are many causes of fever in the post-partum setting and it is likely that this fever is not related to the epidural. If she had a cesarean section, she should also be assessed for causes of post-operative fever.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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