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Learning About a Popliteal Nerve Block

What is a popliteal nerve block?

A popliteal nerve block is an injection (shot) of numbing medicine that helps keep your pain level lower after surgery. It's used for some surgeries on the foot or ankle.

The nerve block goes into the back of your knee, in the space called the popliteal fossa. The nerve block works by numbing the sciatic nerve, which runs down the back of your leg behind your knee.

This nerve block is sometimes used with medicine that makes you sleep during surgery. But sometimes the nerve block is all that's needed, and you can stay awake without feeling any pain.

How is a popliteal nerve block done?

Before a popliteal nerve block, you may get medicine to keep you relaxed and comfortable.

The doctor may use ultrasound or another imaging method to help guide the nerve block needle.

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

What can you expect after a popliteal nerve block?

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

You will need someone to drive 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 seizures, heart problems, 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.

Where can you learn more?

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