Regional Anesthesia

What is regional anesthesia?
Regional anesthesia is used when only one area of the body, like an arm or a leg, needs to be anesthetized in order to perform an operation. There are several types of regional anesthesia.

What are the different types of regional anesthesia?

  • Spinal Anesthesia - Spinal anesthesia involves injecting a local anesthetic into the fluid surrounding spinal nerves. Once injected, the medicine mixes with spinal fluid in the lower back and numbs the nerves it contacts, effectively blocking sensation and pain.

    Spinal anesthesia takes effect rapidly and is safe and effective for any surgery occurring below the ribcage. It is especially effective for surgery on the lower abdomen and legs.
  • Epidural Anesthesia - Epidural anesthesia involves the placement of a catheter into a small space within the vertebral column just before the spinal fluid. Depending on the nerves targeted, the epidural can be placed in various regions of the back from the neck to the tailbone. Epidural medications can be given through this catheter to provide numbness for the surgery, and also can be used to provide pain relief in the post-operative period.
  • Nerve Blocks – Your anesthesiologist can use a variety of nerve blocks to ensure comfort throughout a surgical procedure. Often a group of nerves, called a plexus or ganglion, that causes pain to a specific organ or body region can be blocked with local anesthetics. Below are some of the most common nerve blocks and what body parts they are associated with.
    • Trigeminal nerve blocks (face)
    • Ophthalmic nerve block (eyelids and scalp)
    • Supraorbital nerve block (forehead)
    • Maxillary nerve block (upper jaw)
    • Sphenopalatine nerve block (nose and palate)
    • Cervical epidural, thoracic epidural, and lumbar epidural block (neck and back)
    • Cervical plexus block and cervical para-vertebral block (shoulder and upper neck)
    • Brachial plexus block, elbow block, and wrist block (shoulder/arm/hand, elbow, and wrist)
    • Subarachnoid block and celiac plexus block (abdomen and pelvis)
  • Intravenous Regional Anesthesia – Intravenous regional anesthesia is the process of placing an IV catheter into a vein in your lower leg or arm so that the local anesthetic can be administered. An important part of intravenous regional anesthesia is placing a tourniquet above the area to ensure the medicine stays in the arm or leg that is being anesthetized. Feeling will return to the area once the tourniquet is removed.

What are the most common procedures used with regional anesthesia?
Regional anesthesia can be used for many procedures, but the most common are orthopedic and obstetric procedures.

Are there side effects associated with regional anesthesia?
At Southeast Anesthesiology Consultants patient safety is extremely important. Although anesthesia can carry some risks, major side effects or complications are uncommon. You can be assured that our physicians are extremely qualified to handle your anesthesia care. Southeast Anesthesiology Consultants regularly exceeds the national standards of care and safety. The specific risks of anesthesia vary with the particular procedure and the condition of the patient. You should ask your anesthesiologist about any risks that may be associated with your anesthesia.

What are some of the side effects of regional anesthesia?
Although uncommon, potential risks include:

  • Swelling
  • Infection at the injection site
  • Systemic toxicity (rare)
  • Heart or lung problems (rare)