Regional Anesthesia



In regional anesthesia, your anesthesiologist makes an injection near a cluster of nerves to numb the area of your body that requires surgery. You may remain awake, or you may be given continuous sedation at your request. You do not or feel the actual surgery take place due to the blocking of the nerves to the surgical site. These sedatives are very short acting so you should be wide-awake shortly after you arrive in our recovery room.

If a sedative is used you may very well remember bits and pieces of your time in the operating room, however you will remain very calm and pain free.

There are several kinds of regional anesthesia. Two of the most frequently used are spinal anesthesia and epidural anesthesia, which are produced by injections made with great precision in the appropriate areas of the back. It seems that everyone has a horror story to tell about someone many years ago getting a spinal injury from this technique. As with everything in medicine, things change. Spinal/Epidural anesthesia is now a very safe and common anesthetic. Risk of neurological injury is very rare and the reported risk of spinal headaches is less than 0.5%. Many patients prefer the benefit of avoiding the drugs of general anesthesia for a little sedation and numbness. It is also quite interesting to note that a poll of practicing Anesthesiologists choose regional anesthesia for themselves more often than general anesthesia.

Another significant advantage of regional anesthesia is the ability to extent the nerve block into the post-operative period by use of an indwelling catheter. These can be placed blindly, by ultrasound, x-ray, or use of a nerve stimulator. These catheters allow your anesthesiologist to provide superior pain control, while limiting the amount of narcotics needed to control your pain. These blocks are most commonly preformed in the neck or shoulder for arm and hand surgery, or in the groin or back of the knee for leg and foot surgery.

Epidural catheters can be placed at appropriate levels of the spine to provide pain relief for anything from chest to foot surgery.

Your post-operative comfort is a priority of your anesthesiologist, so ask questions about your options.

Information for this website was obtained from the
American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA)
web site patient information center.