What is a peripheral regional nerve block?
Regional nerve block involves the placement of a tiny plastic tube known as a catheter into a nerve sheath. The technique referred to as a 'nerve block' may be used in combination with general anaesthetic or as a sole agent to provide post-operative pain control (analgesia).
This nerve block (injection) is strategically placed so that it will provide pain control for the whole limb (i.e. arm or leg).
How is the medication administered?
The medication may be given as a once only injection. When this occurs pain control should be obtained for 10-16 hours. When the nerve block begins to wear off you may experience a 'pins and needles' sensation to the affected limb/area. When this occurs, it is advisable to ask your nurse for oral pain control medication (i.e. capsules).
Often the medications are administered by a continuous infusion. When this occurs the tiny plastic catheter remains in the nerve sheath for 2-3 days. The catheter is attached to an electronic pump that delivers the medication at a constant rate. Sometimes we like the patient to administer a 'dose' of the medication when they begin to feel discomfort. If this is the case, the electronic pump will have a button attached to it that you will be required to press to deliver a specific dose of the medications.
Will I be able to move my arm (or leg)?
Sometimes the limb that is 'blocked' may feel 'heavy'. This is normal. You should still be able to move the limb and wiggle the fingers/toes. If you are having difficulty moving the limb/fingers/toes you should tell the nurse.
What are the different types of peripheral regional nerve blocks?
- Femoral block: inserted into the femoral nerve sheath (located in your groin). These blocks are used for total knee replacements, and other lower limb operations.
- Sciatic block: inserted either into your groin, near your buttock area, or lower thigh. This block is used for total knee replacements, and other lower limb operations.
- Lumbar plexus/psoas: inserted into an area near your buttocks. Used for total hip replacements, or other operating concerning the hip.
- Brachial plexus/interscalene: inserted into the armpit. Used to manage pain in the shoulder and arm.
Is the procedure safe?
Peripheral regional anaesthesia is extremely safe with relatively few side effects. You will be visited daily by the pain team to ensure your safety and comfort. It is important that you tell the nurse if you have pain that is not controlled.