Krisha McCoy, MS
Regional anesthesia is a type of anesthesia. It blocks pain to a part of the body without causing sleep.
Regional anesthesia is used to make the body numb for surgery:
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as:
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 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.
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.
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection, such as:
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chance of infection, such as:
It is important to monitor your recovery. Alert your doctor to any problems. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Association of Nurse Anesthetists
American Society of Anesthesiologists
Canadian Anesthesiologists' Society
Anesthesia basics. Nemours Kids Health website. Available at:
Updated April 2012. Accessed September 26, 2014.
Mulroy M, Bernards C, et al.
A practical approach to regional anesthesia. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2008.
Regional anesthesia for surgery. American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine website. Available at:
September 26, 2014.
Interventional Pain Management. Philadelphia, PA:WB Saunders Company; 2001.
Last reviewed September 2015 by Donald Buck, MD
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