Researchers have called for a national database to be set up to identify major complications arising from epidural pain relief.
A small number of serious problems were identified during a six-year study at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth.
Researchers found 12 of the 8,100 patients studied developed major complications after receiving epidural pain relief following an operation. Six developed epidural abscesses, three suffered from meningitis and three had blood clots in the epidural space.
The authors said: 'Although relatively rare, these complications are serious and point to the need for regular surveys to be carried out after epidural pain relief to identify risk factors and the scale of the problem.
'The results should then be stored in a national database to provide a more accurate estimate of the risk of these complications. This register might also identify other relevant risk factors such as MRSA infections,' they said.
Anaesthesia (2007) 62: 335-41