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Peripheral Nerve Blocks

A peripheral nerve block is an anesthetic practice used in many surgical procedures. It is accomplished by injecting a local anesthetic near the nerve controlling sensation or movement to the area of the body requiring surgery. Peripheral nerve blocks are an alternative to general anesthesia and central nerve blocks for surgery.

There are several advantages to peripheral nerve blocks, including reduced risk of post-operative fatigue and vomiting as well as improved post-operative pain management. Patients often require less pain medication during recovery when a peripheral nerve block was used in surgery. Because a peripheral nerve block only affects the area of the body being operated on, patients have an option to be awake or asleep during the procedure.

What Happens during Peripheral Nerve Blocks?

Prior to administering the peripheral nerve block, the patient will receive an IV in the hand or arm to dispense intravenous pain medicine. This allows the body to relax as it prepares for the injection. A numbing agent is also injected by a small needle prior to the procedure. Patients may experience a slight pinch or burning sensation as the anesthesia takes effect.

Once the area is numb, the spinal epidural needle is placed. An imaging device, usually an X-ray machine, is used during the procedure to accurately locate the injection site.

Possible Side Effects

Side effects include a tingling sensation in some portion of the area impacted by the nerve block, itchiness at the site of injection and slight nausea. Additional side effects include soreness at the side of injection and muscle spasms.

Post-Operative Care

After receiving a peripheral nerve block, patients are advised to avoid operating heavy machinery or driving for at least 24 hours. Patients can resume normal activities within a few days of the procedure. 

Possible Outcomes

Immediately after the procedure, patients may experience immediate pain relief. This is due to the local anesthetic that will wear off within a few hours. The steroid will start to reduce pain within 3 to 5 days and last for an extended period.

Although rare, patients should consult a physician if they experience:

  • A prolonged headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of feeling in the limbs or groin
  • Chills, stiffness or redness at the injection site

Additional options to treat Peripheral Neuropathy

  • Radiofrequency Ablation
  • Acupuncture