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regional anaesthesia

Alternative Names
regional block, field block, nerve block, conduction anaesthesia

Anaesthesia means a loss of feeling or inability to feel pain. Regional anaesthesia or block is a method of pain prevention in a specific part of the body, such as the hand.

Who is a candidate for the procedure?
  • Anyone who undergoes a painful procedure may be a candidate for a regional block. A regional block is sometimes used for surgery in the hand or arm. It can also be used for procedures such as circumcision of the penis and corneal surgery. This type of pain control is not usually used for major operations.
  • Also used for individuals with regionalised chronic pain
How is the procedure performed?
In a regional block, medication is injected around a large nerve or nerves. These nerves give sensation to the site of the procedure. Regional blocks are usually done in an operating room. Unlike local numbing, the medication is injected far away from the procedure site. although regional blocks cause a larger area of the body to be numb than local anaesthesia, the medication is the same.

The site of the procedure is first cleaned with an antibacterial cleanser. The local anaesthesia is often injected deep into the skin or other surface. This is where the major nerves are usually located. The medication may cause a stinging or burning sensation at first. This discomfort lasts for just a few seconds.

It takes a few minutes for the medication to have its full effect. The person should be unable to feel pain in the area. Regional blocks also paralyse the muscles in the area, unlike local anaesthesia. A pressure sensation may be felt when the area is cut or poked with needles. But pain should be absent. If pain is felt, the person should tell the doctor. More medication can be given to control pain.

Sedative medications may be given before and during the procedure, usually through an intravenous line, or IV. This helps the person relax. It also reduces the pain of the initial injections. The numbing medication generally wears off within a few hours of the procedure.

What happens right after the procedure?
Many procedures that use regional anaesthesia are fairly minor. After the procedure, the person is taken to a recovery room. The individual may be able to go home a few hours after the procedure. Someone else must drive the person home. This is because sedatives can impair co-ordination and reflexes for several hours. Always check with your doctor after the procedure.

What happens later at home?
Regional blocks require little or no home care. But the procedure itself may require monitoring and treatment. The procedure usually causes more problems during recovery at home than the medication.

What are the potential complications after the procedure?
Regional blocks are unlikely to cause complications. Allergic reactions are possible and may cause temporary breathing problems. In rare cases, if the medication is accidentally injected into the bloodstream, or if too much is used, seizures or arrhythmias may occur.

Author: Adam Brochert, MD
Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia
Last Updated: 1/10/2001
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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