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What Is a Tuohy Needle?

A Tuohy needle is a specialized tool designed for epidural injections, featuring a curved tip that helps guide catheters into the epidural space. Its unique design minimizes tissue damage and improves patient comfort. Intrigued by how this needle revolutionizes pain management? Discover its precise role in medical procedures and the impact on patient care in our comprehensive guide. What could this mean for future treatments?
Misty Wiser
Misty Wiser

A Tuohy needle, or Tuohy epidural needle, is a long hollow needle with a curved tip used to administer anesthetic through an epidural, a type of anesthesia commonly preferred during labor and delivery. The curved tip of this type of hypodermic needle helps to prevent the dura layer of the spinal cord from being accidentally penetrated. An increase in the lumen diameter of this epidural needle helps the anesthesiologist to insert the needle precisely with a controlled force.

An epidural Tuohy needle has several special design features. The gauge of this needle is larger than other types of needles used in a medical setting. On two sides of the needle’s shaft are wing shaped protrusions that are used to exert additional force during the insertion of the Tuohy needle into the subarachnoid space of the spinal cord. Visible on the shaft of the needle are alternating colored bands that are spaced an equal distance apart from each other. These markings allow for the precise measurement of the length of the needle already inside the body.

A Tuohy needle is used to administer anesthetic through an epidural, which is commonly used during labor and delivery.
A Tuohy needle is used to administer anesthetic through an epidural, which is commonly used during labor and delivery.

Tuohy needles can be ordered through a medical supply warehouse or from an Internet website. Most Tuohy needles are sterilized and then individually packaged for a single use. Disposable Tuohy needles are made with a plastic hub and metal stylet, and some feature removable wings.

Before inserting the Tuohy needle into the patient, the anesthesiologist will carefully clean the insertion site. The patient will be instructed to lean forward and grasp her knees with both arms. When the patient is completely still, the anesthesiologist will carefully insert the needle into the space between the vertebrae of the spine.

A patient with an epidural should have their oxygen saturation levels monitored through a fingertip pulse oximeter.
A patient with an epidural should have their oxygen saturation levels monitored through a fingertip pulse oximeter.

After the anesthesiologist has inserted the Tuohy needle through the spinal ligaments, a thin flexible epidural catheter is threaded through the needle into the subarachnoid space. Once the presence of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) dripping from the needle has confirmed the correct placement of the catheter, the needle will be removed. The epidural catheter is secured in position with a medical grade adhesive tape to reduce the risk of the catheter moving within the subarachnoid space. It is left in place until pain relief is no longer necessary for the patient’s comfort.

An anesthesiologist generally applies epidural.
An anesthesiologist generally applies epidural.

Most of the anesthetic properties of the medication will usually take effect within four minutes of the removal of the Tuohy needle from the patient's body. During the administration of the epidural anesthesia, the anesthesiologist will carefully monitor the patient’s pulse and respiration rate. The patient’s blood pressure and oxygen saturation levels will also observed throughout the epidural to ensure that an unsafe drop in either level is promptly treated.

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    • A Tuohy needle is used to administer anesthetic through an epidural, which is commonly used during labor and delivery.
      By: Leah-Anne Thompson
      A Tuohy needle is used to administer anesthetic through an epidural, which is commonly used during labor and delivery.
    • A patient with an epidural should have their oxygen saturation levels monitored through a fingertip pulse oximeter.
      By: Africa Studio
      A patient with an epidural should have their oxygen saturation levels monitored through a fingertip pulse oximeter.
    • An anesthesiologist generally applies epidural.
      By: Tyler Olson
      An anesthesiologist generally applies epidural.