Regional anesthesia is a type of anesthesia. It blocks pain to a part of the body without causing the patient to sleep.
Regional anesthesia is used to make the body numb for surgery:
Anesthesia Injection into Spinal Canal—Epidural
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Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have anesthesia, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
Your doctor will likely do the following:
Leading up to your procedure:
With regional anesthesia, you may remain awake, but you will usually be given a sedative to help calm you. Prior to administering the anesthesia:
Your anesthesiologist will inject medicine near a cluster of nerves. The selected nerves will be the ones that supply the area of your body that requires surgery.
Types of regional anesthesia include epidural and spinal. Both involve injecting medicines in or near the spinal canal.
Another type of regional anesthesia, a peripheral nerve block, is often used for knee, shoulder, or arm surgery. The anesthesia is injected near clusters of nerves that feed the arms or legs. A cervical nerve block is a type of peripheral nerve block for surgeries in the neck or arm.
Cervical Nerve Block
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If local anesthetic is used, you will slowly gain sensation and motion again in the area that was numbed. It can take a few hours or longer before your sensation is completely back to normal. If treating for pain, the pain will return in a few hours, and the relief may take up to two weeks.
While the regional anesthesia procedure itself takes several minutes or longer, its effects typically last for 2-6 hours.
Depending on whether sedation or local anesthesia is used, you may feel slight pain or tingling with the injection. The anesthetic will prevent you from feeling pain during your surgical procedure. You may feel that your limb may be heavy initially and then light later on.
Your postoperative care will depend on the nature of your surgery. Most likely, you will receive instructions about limits on your diet and activities.
Once the anesthesia wears off, sensation will return to the region where pain was blocked. You may have to restrict activities, such as driving, since you may feel numb or drowsy as your anesthetic and sedative wear off.
After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Association of Nurse Anesthetists
American Society of Anesthesiologists
Canadian Anesthesiologists' Society
Anesthesia basics. Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/teen/your_body/medical_care/anesthesia_basics.html . Accessed April 17, 2007.
Anesthesia and heart disease. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4462 . Accessed April 17, 2007.
Mulroy M, Bernards C, McDonald S, Salinas F. A Practical Approach to Regional Anesthesia . Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2008.
Patient info. American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine website. Available at: http://www.asra.com/patient-info/index.html#C . Accessed April 17, 2007.
Waldman SD. Interventional Pain Management . Philadelphia, PA:WB Saunders Company; 2001.
Last reviewed December 2011 by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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