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Information About Nerve Blocks

What is a nerve block?
 
A nerve block is when your anaesthetist injects local anaesthetic around a major nerve supplying the part of the body being operated on. The block may be performed when you are awake or asleep, depending on the individual anaesthetist.
 
Nerve blocks are typically performed for surgery on the arms & legs, hernia repairs, penile surgery and some neck operations. 
 
Why have a nerve block?
  • If you are having a general anaesthetic, the amount of anaesthetic that you need to be given to keep you asleep is decreased. Side effects of the general anaesthetic may be therefore be reduced.
  • Excellent, long-lasting pain relief. The part of the body that the blocked nerve supplies will be completely numb meaning that you will have no pain after surgery. The blocks typically last for a minimum of 6 hours and a maximum of 24 hours. Blocks get you over the worst of the pain.
Side effects
  • Prolonged block - more than 72 hours. This occurs in about 1 in 50 patients. This can be a nuisance if you are wanting to get back to normal activities.
  • Nerve damage, either from direct needle trauma or infection. This happens to 1 in 5000 patients.
Things to remember
  • About 1 in 20 nerve blocks fail either completely or partially (part of the area will be numb).
  • The muscles supplied by the blocked nerve are also affected. This means, for example, that you will not be able to move a limb until the block wears off.

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