Regional Anesthesia
What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

Regional Anesthesia Overview

Written by FoundHealth.


Regional anesthesia is a type of anesthesia. It blocks pain to a part of the body without causing the patient to sleep.

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

Your doctor will likely do the following:

  • Physical exam
  • Arrange for you to meet with an anesthesiologist, who will also go over your history and do a physical examination

Leading up to your procedure:

  • Fast the night before if recommended by your doctor.
  • Take medicines prescribed by your doctor.
  • Avoid certain medicines, if recommended by your doctor.
  • Arrange to have someone drive you to and from the procedure. Also, arrange for help at home after your procedure.

Description of Procedure

With regional anesthesia, you may remain awake, but you will usually be given a sedative to help calm you. Prior to administering the anesthesia:

  • Your doctor may set up monitors to track your vital signs.
  • The area to be injected will be cleaned with an antiseptic solution.
  • A local anesthetic may be applied to the skin or injected. This may sting slightly.

Your anesthesiologist will inject medicine near a cluster of nerves. The selected nerves will be the ones that supply the area of your body that requires surgery.

Types of regional anesthesia include epidural and spinal. Both involve injecting medicines in or near the spinal canal.

Another type of regional anesthesia, a peripheral nerve block, is often used for knee, shoulder, or arm surgery. The anesthesia is injected near clusters of nerves that feed the arms or legs. A cervical nerve block is a type of peripheral nerve block for surgeries in the neck or arm.

Cervical Nerve Block
Cervical Nerve Block
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

After Procedure

If local anesthetic is used, you will slowly gain sensation and motion again in the area that was numbed. It can take a few hours or longer before your sensation is completely back to normal. If treating for pain, the pain will return in a few hours, and the relief may take up to two weeks.

How Long Will It Take?

While the regional anesthesia procedure itself takes several minutes or longer, its effects typically last for 2-6 hours.

Will It Hurt?

Depending on whether sedation or local anesthesia is used, you may feel slight pain or tingling with the injection. The anesthetic will prevent you from feeling pain during your surgical procedure. You may feel that your limb may be heavy initially and then light later on.

Postoperative Care

Your postoperative care will depend on the nature of your surgery. Most likely, you will receive instructions about limits on your diet and activities.

Once the anesthesia wears off, sensation will return to the region where pain was blocked. You may have to restrict activities, such as driving, since you may feel numb or drowsy as your anesthetic and sedative wear off.



American Association of Nurse Anesthetists

American Society of Anesthesiologists


Canadian Anesthesiologists' Society

Health Canada


Anesthesia basics. Nemours Foundation website. Available at: . Accessed April 17, 2007.

Anesthesia and heart disease. American Heart Association website. Available at: . Accessed April 17, 2007.

Mulroy M, Bernards C, McDonald S, Salinas F. A Practical Approach to Regional Anesthesia. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2008.

Patient info. American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine website. Available at: . Accessed April 17, 2007.

Waldman SD. Interventional Pain Management. Philadelphia, PA:WB Saunders Company; 2001.



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