Arrange for you to meet with an anesthesiologist, who will also go over your history and do a physical examination
Leading up to your procedure:
Fast the night before if recommended by your doctor.
Take medications prescribed by your doctor.
Avoid certain medications, if recommended by your doctor.
Arrange to have someone drive you to and from the procedure. Also, arrange for help at home after your procedure.
Description of 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 doctor may set up monitors to track your vital signs.
The area to be injected will be cleaned with an antiseptic solution.
A local anesthetic may be applied to the skin or injected. This may sting slightly.
Your anesthesiologist will inject medication 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 medications 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.
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 2 weeks. Any pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
How Long Will It Take?
While the regional anesthesia procedure itself takes several minutes or longer, its effects typically last for 2-6 hours.
Will It Hurt?
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.
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection such as:
Washing their hands
Wearing gloves or masks
Keeping your incisions covered
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chance of infection such as:
Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and healthcare providers to do the same
Reminding your healthcare providers to wear gloves or masks
Not allowing others to touch your incision
Call Your Doctor
It is important to monitor your recovery. Alert your doctor to any problems. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:
Signs of infection, including fever and chills
Redness, swelling, increasing pain, or discharge from the injection site
Tingling, numbness, or trouble moving the affected area that lasts longer than expected
Pain that you cannot control with the medications you have been given
Shortness of breath or chest pain
Funny taste or numbness of the mouth
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
Anesthesia basics. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/en/teens/anesthesia-basics.html. Updated September 2015. Accessed October 2, 2017.
Regional anesthesia for surgery. American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine website. Available at:https://www.asra.com/page/41/regional-anesthesia-for-surgery. Accessed October 2, 2017.
Last reviewed September 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 1/22/2014
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