What is a nerve block?

A nerve block sends local anaesthetic through a small needle to a spot near the nerves. This causes numbness and weakness to the part of your body being operated on.


Why should I have a nerve block?

In some cases, the nerve block is all that’s required to keep you completely comfortable, and you do not need general anaesthesia.

  • Safety: If you have many medical problems, or have side effects from general anaesthesia, having a block may be safer for you.
  • Improved pain control: you will need less pain medicine.
  • Less side effects: you will have less chance of being itchy, sick to your stomach, sleepy or having trouble going to the bathroom.
  • Recovery: You are likely to go home sooner.


How is a nerve block done?

I will clean your skin, and inject local anaesthetic to numb the skin around the block area. Then I will administer a medicine to help you relax. Using a special needle and an ultrasound machine which gives a picture of the nerves, blood vessels and muscle, I can accurately find the nerves. I then give you the local anaesthetic that ‘freezes’ the nerves that go to the area where you are having surgery. The numbness and weakness lasts between 8-24 hours. It is important to let me know if anything bothers you while the block is being done.


Will the nerve block work?

Nerve blocks work very well. They have a high success rate (95%). I always test the block to see that the nerve block is working before the surgery starts. If it is not working well, another nerve block may be performed or we may decide to give you a general anaesthetic (put you to sleep). Either way, I will ensure you are safe and comfortable. A common misconception regarding nerve blocks is that you have to be awake during surgery.

In addition to your block, I can provide you with sedation, which renders people sleepy and unaware of their surroundings during the surgery.


Are there any side effects or complications from nerve blocks?

Side effects or problems linked to nerve blocks are rare.

  • Nerve damage: < 1% of patients may have a prickly feeling or numbness in the area blocked. This can last 3-4 weeks. Very rarely (< 0.2%) you may still have weakness in the blocked area after this time.
  • Adverse reactions: < 0.1% of patients may have an adverse reaction to the local anaesthetic drug. This can be treated. Please let me know if you have previously had a bad reaction to a local anaesthetic.
  • Specific complications: depending of the type of block, other complications may include damage to structures including the lung, blood vessels and muscle. This is exceedingly rare as I visualise these structures on ultrasound.