Dr. Reitzel describes the difference between epidural and intrathecal injections.
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The Difference Between Epidural and Intrathecal Injections The difference between an epidural and intrathecal is that an epidural is a catheter that sits down next to the spinal sack that holds the cerebral spinal fluid. An intrathecal is a single injection that goes through that sack into the cerebral spinal fluid and administers medicine. Now the difference between the two is the medicine that is actually injected in an intrathecal has a finite period of time depending on what medicine I can administer it can last 30 minutes, 60 minutes, 90 minutes, 120 minutes, four hours or eight hours depending on what combination of medicines that we use. The problem is that we don’t know how long the labor lasts. This is a clear cut case of we would rather have than not need than need and not have. The epidural allows us to give more medicine in a continuous manner rather than having a clock of when you have to deliver because if I give you a intrathecal injection that lasts 90 minutes and your labor lasts 110 minutes you are going to be pretty uncomfortable and pretty upset with me. The advantage to the epidural is that the epidural allows us to give you continuous medicine round the clock and does not have a finite period of time where it ends.