What is a Nerve Block?Ch2
Blocks for Surgery

Nerve blocks can be used to relieve pain during and after surgery. These can be most helpful for patients who need to avoid general anesthesia.






Blocking the Pain of Childbirth
without risk to the unborn Child

Epidural blocks are used to block the pain of childbirth because a general anesthetic would risk suppressing the mother's heart rate and blood flow to her unborn child.

These are done by injecting local anesthetic around the nerves in your low back. This will completely block any pain in your lower torso, legs, and feet.

Blocking the Nerves
for Tooth Extraction

nerve block for tooth extraction

Image thanks to Dozenist, via Wikimedia Commons


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Epidural blocks are also used for many different surgeries in the lower extremities such as hip or knee replacement surgery.

These are often helpful for people with multiple medical problems who may not be able to tolerate general anesthesia.

Blocks for Shoulder Surgery

These nerves that go to your shoulder area pass between the scalene muscles on the front of your shoulder. An interscalene block can be placed around those nerves and make your shoulder numb for shoulder surgery.

Some anesthesiologists will install a catheter and leave it in place for two or three days after surgery. This can continue to bathe the nerves in local anesthetic and provide excellent pain relief for the first few days after surgery.

Blocking Peripheral Nerves

Peripheral blocks can be used for surgeries on your arm or leg such as a carpal tunnel surgery, bunion surgery, or knee arthroscopy.

This can allow you to return home soon after the surgery is completed. A peripheral nerve block eliminates the risk of general anesthesia and the need for several hours of monitoring after surgery.

The Risks of Nerve Blocks 

Although the risk is never zero, there is a very low risk of bleeding, infection, or damage to nerves. These procedures are generally performed by trained specialists under sterile conditions which greatly reduces the risk of infection.

They often use x-ray or ultrasound images to guide needle placement which greatly reduces the danger of a nerve injury or uncontrollable bleeding.

While, there is a risk of complications, blocking nerves can be very helpful for controlling pain in a variety of situations.

The most common blocks are usually done with local anesthetic and they can provide good short term relief for surgery and in other specific situations.

Blocks with local Anesthetic are Temporary

The problem with most of these blocks with local anesthetic is that they will only last for several hours or up to a few days. This limits their usefulness for the treatment of chronic pain. 

What is a Nerve Block? Ch3
Blocks with Radio Frequency Ablation



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