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Learning About a Brachial Plexus Block

Nervous system, including the brachial plexus

What is a brachial plexus block?

A brachial plexus block is a shot of numbing medicine around the group of nerves between your spine and your shoulder. The shot usually goes into your neck or just above your collarbone. Sometimes it goes into the armpit.

This kind of nerve block may be used for some procedures on the shoulder, arm, or hand. It numbs the area during the procedure and can help control pain afterward.

How is a brachial plexus block done?

Before a brachial plexus block, you may get medicine to keep you relaxed and comfortable. The doctor may use ultrasound to help guide the nerve block needle.

After finding the right spot, the doctor uses a tiny needle to numb the skin where you will get the nerve block. Then the doctor puts the special nerve block needle into the numbed area. You may feel some pressure. But you should not feel pain.

What can you expect after a brachial plexus block?

The shot will leave your arm partly or totally numb for a while. Your doctor will tell you how long. Follow your doctor's instructions carefully.

Be sure you have someone to take you home.

As the block wears off, you will start to feel some pain from the surgery. Be sure to take your pain medicines before the pain gets bad.

Problems from a nerve block are rare. There is a small risk of problems like damage to nerves, infection, or bleeding. The benefits usually outweigh these risks.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

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