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Peripheral Nerve Blocks: Care Instructions


A peripheral nerve block is a way to block pain from a part of the body, such as an arm or a leg. It's used for procedures that are done on one specific area of the body. It can also help relieve pain after a procedure. This can reduce the need for other pain medicines. Sometimes a nerve block may be used to relieve pain from an injury, such as a rib fracture.

Nerve blocks are done by injecting numbing medicine into the area near a nerve or group of nerves. There are different types of peripheral nerve blocks. The type that is used depends on the area of the body that needs to be numbed.

Problems after a nerve block are rare. There's a small risk of nerve damage, infection, or bleeding. Rarely, the medicines used can affect the heart.

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.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Follow all instructions from your doctor about how to take care of the area that was numbed.
  • Be careful not to injure the area while it's still numb.
    • If you move the area, move it slowly and carefully.
    • Be careful with hot and cold. Since you won't feel pain, it's easier for damage from heat or cold to happen.
  • If your doctor leaves a small tube in place to help you stay numb after your procedure, follow your doctor's instructions about how to use it and take care of it.

If you had sedation or general anesthesia

  • Don't sign legal documents or do anything that requires attention to detail until you recover. It takes time for the medicine's effects to completely wear off.
  • Don't drive or operate any machinery for at least 24 hours. Wait until the medicine wears off and you can think clearly and react easily.
  • If you have sleep apnea and you have a CPAP machine, be sure to use it.
  • After the procedure, make sure to rest. Some people will feel drowsy or dizzy for up to a few hours after waking up.
  • Take your time, and move slowly. Sudden changes in position may cause nausea.
  • Don't drink alcohol for 24 hours.
  • You can eat your normal diet, unless your doctor gives you other instructions. If your stomach is upset, try clear liquids and bland, low-fat foods like plain toast or rice.
  • Drink plenty of fluids (unless your doctor tells you not to).

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have trouble breathing.
  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have nausea or vomiting that gets worse or won't stop.
  • You have a fever.
  • The medicine is not wearing off by the time the doctor said it should.
  • You have injured the numb area of your body.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.