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Learning About Intravenous (I.V.) Regional Anesthesia

What is intravenous (I.V.) regional anesthesia?

Intravenous (I.V.) regional anesthesia is also sometimes called a Bier block. It uses numbing medicines to block pain in the arm or hand during a procedure.

How is it done?

A small tube (I.V.) is inserted into a vein in the hand of the arm that is being numbed. Then the arm is wrapped tightly from the hand up to above the area where the procedure will be done. This pushes blood out of the wrapped section back into the body.

A tight band is put around the arm at the top of the wrap. When the band is secure, the wrap is removed. Most of the blood stays above the band.

Then the doctor or nurse injects numbing medicine into the I.V. The numbing medicine spreads through the part of the arm below the band and numbs it for the procedure.

How do you prepare?

You will get a list of instructions to help you prepare. Your anesthesiologist 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 know 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 surgery. Ask your doctor about ways to relax before surgery.

What should you tell the anesthesia specialist before the procedure?

Tell the specialist about any health problems (such as sleep apnea). Also talk about any past surgeries and if a family member had problems with anesthesia. Let them know if you're pregnant or if you smoke, drink alcohol, or use drugs. Give them a list of all medicines and natural health products you take.

What are the risks?

Problems from I.V. regional anesthesia aren't common. There may be soreness or bruising where the band was. There is a small risk of nerve damage. And if the medicine enters the bloodstream, there can be some side effects. Examples include ringing in the ears and dizziness. Rarely, the medicine can affect the heart.

Where can you learn more?

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