A nerve block is the administration of medication to a specific nerve bundle, or region of the body, to provide controlled temporary relief of sensation.
What Are Nerve Blocks Used For?
Nerve blocks can serve multiple functions. They can be used as a form of anesthesia during a surgical procedure, numbing an area of the body while allowing the patient to remain awake. This technique is used frequently during surgeries that are exclusive to an arm or leg. Another common example of a nerve block is an epidural, which is frequently used in child birth to numb the patient from the chest down. A nerve block can also be used post-operatively as a form of pain management as is common with broken legs or patients suffering from phantom limb pain. It is also possible to use a nerve block to identify the source of chronic pain through the short term numbing of specific nerve endings in order to isolate the origin of the pain directly at its source.
How Does It Work?
Nerve blocks can be administered in two ways. One way to administer a nerve block is to inject a medication straight into the desired location, directly numbing the intended nerve bundle. These direct injections are extremely reliable and have a predictable timeline of effectiveness dependent on which medication your anesthesiologist chooses to use. The other method of administering a nerve block is via an inserted catheter that rests in the region of the body being targeted. A diluted form of the medication can then be administered by repeated singular injections through an attached syringe. This option is optimal for post-operative care and in-home management as well, as the catheter can be connected to a pump that gives you timed and measured doses of medication as prescribed by your specialist.
Can I Use It Long Term?
While some scenarios, like severe trauma or limb amputation, can dictate prolonged use of nerve blocks, they are generally intended for short term pain intervention. Depending on the purpose of your nerve block and plan for long term care, your specialist will determine which medication will best serve your needs and the duration of time that you will require it. Upon the termination of your nerve block you can expect that your specialist will have a regimen of non-narcotic medications in place for you, designed to prevent or reduce nerve pain. These medications, in conjunction with other alternative therapies, will likely make up your long term pain prevention plan.
Am I a Candidate for a Nerve Block?
Nerve blocks do not work for everyone. A trial dose will be administered first to see if it is effective for you. If the medication does work well, your anesthesiologist will slowly increase the amount and monitor your response.
Pain can come from many different sources and not everyone with chronic or acute pain will require a nerve block. If you have questions or concerns about receiving a nerve block, please speak with our staff. We are happy to address your needs and want you to feel comfortable with all of your treatment options.