Peripheral Nerve Block

A peripheral nerve block, is where a specific nerve or bundle of nerves to a specific area of the body can be made numb with a local anaesthetic injected near the nerve. This can be used as the sole form of anaesthetic or combined with sedation or a general anaesthetic.

This form of anaesthesia is used to provide long-lasting pain relief, during and after surgery. It can last from 2 to 24 hours, depending on the site and the drugs used.

Sometimes a very fine tube is put through the needle and left in place. This means that the local anaesthetic can be given for a longer period of time – at times up to a few days. The fine tube can also be connected to a pump called a Patient Controlled Analgesia (PCA) machine. This is where you can be in charge of your own pain relief.

Types of nerve blocks

There are many types of nerve blocks each aimed at different nerves. Your anaesthetist will explain the particular block that is selected for your surgery.

Benefits of a nerve block include:

• Better pain relief after your surgery.

• You may need less strong pain relieving drugs such as morphine.

• Less morphine related side effects such as nausea and itch.

• Shorter recovery time after your surgery.

• Extremely safe procedure.

What are the risks of nerve blocks?

Every anaesthetic has a risk of side effects and complications. Whilst these are usually temporary, some of them may cause long-term problems.

* Rarely, damage to nearby structures (eg blood vessels, lungs).

* Nerve damage, due to bleeding, infection or other causes, is an extra specific risk with regional anaesthesia. This may cause weakness and/ or numbness of the body part that the nerve goes to. This is usually mild and only lasts a short time. Rarely, nerve damage, may be severe and permanent.

• Bruising (haematoma) - If you take Aspirin, Warfarin, Clopidogrel (Plavix and Iscover) or Dipyridamole (Persantin and Asasantin) you are more likely to get a haematoma as it may affect your blood clotting.

• Failure of local anaesthetic - This may require a further injection of anaesthetic or a different method of anaesthesia to be used.

Rare Risks and complications of a local anaesthetic

• Overdose of local anaesthetic

• Seizures

• Cardiac Arrest.