What is a peripheral nerve block?
A peripheral nerve block is a type of regional anaesthetic that involves injecting local anaesthetics and other painkillers near the major nerves to your leg. A nerve block works by temporarily numbing your nerves to give pain relief.
A nerve block for your leg can be used on its own while you are awake, with sedation, or with a spinal anaesthetic or general anaesthetic. Operations on lower limbs are usually performed under a general anaesthetic or spinal anaesthetic. A nerve block is usually used in addition to give pain relief afterwards. Depending on the operation, the injection may be given behind your thigh or knee, in your ankle or foot, or near your groin (see figure 1).
What does the procedure involve?
Your anaesthetist will usually use an ultrasound scanner and nerve stimulator to help guide them where to inject the anaesthetic.
Your anaesthetist will insert the needle and when they are certain that it is in the right position they will inject anaesthetic through it. Sometimes your anaesthetist may insert a small tube through the needle before they remove it, leaving the tube in place so they can inject more anaesthetic.
What complications can happen?
- Failure of the nerve block
- Allergic reaction
- Nerve damage
- Local anaesthetic toxicity
Author: Dr Rakesh Kapila MBChB FRCA
Illustrations: Medical Illustration Copyright © 2012 Nucleus Medical Art. All rights reserved. www.nucleusinc.com
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