Regional Anesthesia: Risks and Uses


Frequently, there is less nausea from regional blocks and patients generally awaken faster after regional blocks. Regional blocks can also be used to reduce the pain after surgery. Generally, regional nerve blocks and catheter will provide better pain control than intravenous or intramuscular opioids (narcotics).

Epidural analgesia for pain control after surgery might provide you with some specific benefits:

  • Better pain control than intravenous narcotics,
  • Earlier recovery of bowel function,
  • Less need for systemic opioids (narcotics) and less nausea as a result,
  • Easier breathing resulting from better pain control,
  • Easier participation in physical therapy

What are the risks of a regional anesthesia block?

Like any other medical procedures, there are risks associate with regional anesthesia. Complications or side effects can occur, even though you are monitored carefully and your anesthesiologist takes special precautions to avoid them. To help prevent a decrease in blood pressure, fluids may be administered intravenously. Although not common, a headache may develop following the block procedure. By holding as still as possible while the needle is placed, you may help to decrease the likelihood of a headache. The area where the nerve block was administered may be sore or tender for a few days. These discomforts, if they do occur, often disappear within a few days. If they do not disappear or become severe, additional treatments are available.

There are veins in the epidural space and other areas where epidural nerve blocks are administered. There is a risk that the anesthetic medication could be injected into one of them. To help avoid unusual reactions stemming from this, it is important to notify your doctor or nurse immediately if you notice any dizziness, rapid heartbeat, funny taste or numbness around your mouth.

Nerve blocks of the brachial plexus are generally well tolerated but there may be signs and symptoms that you may notice. You might experience a change of your pupil size on the affected side, this is called Horner's syndrome. You also might experience a light drop of your eyelid (ptosis). These are normal reactions which typically go away after the nerve block is gone. You might experience a stuffy nose and may experience a certain degree of hoarseness.

Current Issue: Volume 3: Issue 2

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