If you are having an operation on an arm or a leg it may be possible to have this done under regional anaesthesia. Regional or local anaesthesia numbs the area so that you can be awake but not feel pain during the surgery.
What to expect
We use ultrasound to find the nerves that supply the limb being operated on and inject local anaesthetic to numb the area.
For some procedures performed on the lower body and limbs, we can use a spinal block or epidural anaesthetic. We insert a needle into the back to provide numbness to the whole lower body.
Sometimes we use regional anaesthesia with general anaesthesia to give pain relief. We can also sedate you if it would be better not to be completely conscious for your operation.
Regional anaesthetic has some benefits over general anaesthetic. It may be better for you because:
- You avoid side-effects such as nausea and vomiting or confusion
- You avoid the need for strong painkillers which may make you drowsy
- It reduces the stress on the body associated with a general anaesthetic
- You may eat and drink earlier.
Side effects and complications
Our anaesthetists are experienced, and most patients won’t have any, or only minor, temporary complications. But any medical procedure carries a risk:
Nerve damage: about 1 in 5 patients report numbness or tingling up to 5 days after the procedure. Permanent nerve damage from a block is rare
Bleeding: bruising around the injection site is rare and will clear up on its own. Bleeding from larger blood vessels is uncommon and is easily controlled at the time
Infection: the injection is performed in a sterile environment in the operating department so this is uncommon, but any infection may need treatment with antibiotics
Inadequate block: if you become uncomfortable the anaesthetist or surgeon can add more local anaesthetic. If this is ineffective you may need conversion to a general anaesthetic.