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Regional anesthesia is the use of medicines to block pain from an area of the body, such as an arm or a leg or the belly. It's a safe way to relieve pain during a procedure. It can also help relieve pain after surgery. And it may reduce your need for other pain medicine after surgery.
This type of anesthesia can be used for many procedures. These include hand or foot surgeries and total joint replacements of the knee, hip or shoulder. It may also be used during childbirth.
The main types of regional anesthesia are:
Regional anesthesia may be given with other medicines that make you relaxed or sleepy (sedatives) or that relieve pain (analgesics). It is sometimes combined with general anesthesia. These other medicines are usually given through a vein (IV).
Here's how the types of regional anesthesia are given:
People who get regional anesthesia are carefully watched. That's because the medicines used may affect blood pressure, breathing, heartbeat, and other vital functions. But problems rarely happen.
In very rare cases, nerve damage can cause long-term numbness, weakness, or pain. This may happen if a nerve gets injured during the procedure.
Other problems can include infection, swelling, and bruising at the injection site.
The most common problem from spinal anesthesia is a headache. It's caused by leaking of the fluid that surrounds the spinal cord. This is very uncommon with elderly people. But it happens more often in young and middle-aged people. Spinal anesthesia can also cause rare and more serious problems, such as heart and breathing problems.
You will get a list of instructions to help you prepare. Your anesthesia specialist will let you know what to expect when you get to the hospital, during the surgery, and after.
You'll be told when to stop eating and drinking.
If you take medicine, you'll be told what you can and can't take before surgery.
You'll be asked to sign a consent form. The form says that you understand the risks of anesthesia. Before you sign, your specialist will talk with you. You'll discuss the best type for you. And you'll learn the risks and benefits of that type.
Many people are nervous before they have anesthesia and surgery. Ask your doctor about ways to relax before surgery. Relaxation exercises may be one option.
Right after the surgery, you will be in the recovery room. Nurses will make sure you are comfortable. As the medicine wears off, you may feel some pain from your surgery.
Tell someone if you have pain. Pain medicine works better if you take it before the pain gets bad.
You may feel some of the effects of anesthesia for a while. It takes time for the effects of the medicine to completely wear off.
Other common side effects of anesthesia include:
For some surgeries, you may go home the same day. For other surgeries, you may stay in the hospital. Your anesthesia specialist will check on your recovery. They will answer any questions you may have.
Current as of: May 6, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Heather Quinn MD - Family Medicine & John M. Freedman MD - Anesthesiology & Donald Sproule MDCM, CCFP - Family Medicine
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