What does numbness in hands and legs after epidural indicate?

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Posted on Tue, 5 May 2015 in Brain and Spine
Question: Hi,
I started getting numbness in my hands, legs and limbs several hours after I got an epidural. Every night since then, I wake up several times throughout the night to shake it off, to get feeling back. I have been to two doctors, both who have said that my symptoms can't be from the epidural, because my hands get numb as well, not just my legs. Nothing came up in any of the tests I have taken. Yesterday I learned that a botched epidural CAN cause numbness in the hands, legs AND limbs. (Not just an isolated area.) What kind of doctor would you recommend to seek help?
doctor
Answered by Dr. Olsi Taka 47 minutes later
Brief Answer:
Neurologist.

Detailed Answer:
I read your question carefully and I am sorry about your symptoms.

To answer directly to your question the most appropriate specialist to consult would be a neurologist. According to where you live and whether you have access to a big center the best option would be a neurologist with neuromuscular diseases as a subspecialty, but if that is not possible a general neurologist would be fine.

You don't say much about the sort of epidural and the tests you've had, but from that little that you say I tend to agree with the doctors you've seen, unless it was a cervical epidural I don't see why should it cause symptoms in the hands.

I remain at your disposal for further questions.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
doctor
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Follow up: Dr. Olsi Taka 53 minutes later
Epidural during labor (spinal, but not for C-section.) I have been to a neurologist, so I was wondering if I should have gone elsewhere. I have taken full bloodwork, electrical test (EMG?), MRI... All normal. I won't accomplish anything going back again, but assuming this IS the fault of an epidural, would I still need to see a neurologist? While I am not undermining the medical expertise of my doctor, (I trust her fully,) I have mistakenly come across an article of epidurals gone wrong, and one of them listed is numbness to the hands, legs And/or limbs. That "and" has given me hope, and I want to explore every possibility, as unlikely as it seems. So would I still need to see a neurologist for that?
doctor
Answered by Dr. Olsi Taka 2 hours later
Brief Answer:
Read below.

Detailed Answer:
Thank you for that update.

The neurologist seems to have done all the proper testing from your description.
I have to say I remain at a loss to explain why should you have hand symptoms (I confess to have discussed with my sister, an anesthesiologist, and she had no explanation for it either). I would think the symptoms more probable to be related to anxiety than to the epidural injection itself.
From some research I did, I found tingling in the hands mentioned only in one article which didn't offer any explanation either, only mentioned it to have been present in a very small percentage of patients undergoing epidural anesthesia (3.3% vs 2.2% in women who didn't have epidural).
I still believe a neurologist is the specialist who would know more about your symptoms in case epidural was the cause. I don't know whether you would really benefit from another neurological consult for now though, since you have undergone all the necessary tests.
Since the symptoms seem to be present every night becoming really bothersome perhaps a trial with an tricyclic antidepressant like Amitriptyline could be tried. It is used both for anxiety and for neuropathic symptoms, so whatever the cause it should be beneficial, sort of like killing two birds with one stone. However if you are breastfeeding it is contraindicated and you will have to opt for a wait and see approach.

I hope to have been of help.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
doctor
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Follow up: Dr. Olsi Taka 30 minutes later
I had gotten the epidural almost three years ago. Fortunately, I have neither depression nor anxiety! My hands don't tingle: The become completely numb, where I feel like I have no hand or foot... I sometimes have to lift my arm with my other hand to shake it. And it only happens when I am lying down. Usually I'm asleep, and I doubt I have anxiety at the point I go numb.
I got my answer, though. Thank you for your help.
doctor
Answered by Dr. Olsi Taka 10 minutes later
Brief Answer:
Read below.

Detailed Answer:
3 years, that is a really long time, I had assumed the epidural was much more recent.

I really don't see the connection with the epidural, signs should have subsided by now and even in the remote hypothetical case there was a permanent injury not detected by MRI or EMG its symptoms should be persistent not episodic like you describe them.

My first bet would have been a metabolic issue but you confirm to have had full blood work so I assume that has been excluded.

I am sorry I couldn't offer the solution you were looking for. I hope things will work out for the best.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
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Dr. Olsi Taka

Neurologist

Practicing since :2004

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