Managing Pain with a Regional Block

Have you heard of Spectrum’s Regional Block Program? It is a special, localized type of pain management that our anesthesiologists can offer to surgical patients.

As you likely know, nerves carry messages of sensation from various parts of your body to your brain. This is how you feel everything from a tickle, to a shoe that’s too tight, to a toothache or broken arm. Nerves also carry pain messages from locations deep within your body – such as from the site of a surgical procedure.

A regional block is a way to temporarily prevent a nerve from relaying a pain message. When an anesthesiologist injects a local anesthetic near a nerve at the site of an injury, the nerve’s messages get blocked – and you will not feel much (if any) pain from that area.

Why opt for a regional block? One of the biggest reasons is that it can help reduce the stress your body endures during surgery. Regional blocks also usually reduce how much general anesthesia you need, and reduce the pain medications you need during and after surgery. By decreasing use of these medications, you also reduce the side effects that go with them – such as nausea, vomiting, sedation, and constipation.

Regional blocks are not a long-term way to manage pain. You will still need some narcotic and/or non-narcotic pain medication. In fact, it’s important to have your prescribed pain medications in your bloodstream to help you manage the transition as the regional block wears off. Nerve blocks only last for a few hours.

Note that not all surgical patients are suitable candidates for a regional nerve block, due to preexisting conditions. You and your anesthesiologist will discuss your options prior to your surgery, and he or she will determine whether the procedure is a good fit for you.

You are also free to decide not to have a nerve block – it’s simply an option. Like any medical or surgical treatment, it comes with potential risks. Your anesthesiologist will tell you about the risks, and you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions.

The chance of serious injury from a nerve block is very small, however it’s important to know that not all regional blocks are successful at controlling pain. Your anesthesiologist will be involved in your care before, during, and after surgery to track and manage the procedure and its effects. Your surgeon will also give you important instructions for managing pain in the hours and days after your procedure, such as elevating the body part operated on, or using ice.

You might think this is a very new procedure if you’ve never heard of it, but actually Spectrum anesthesiologists have been providing regional blocks to surgical patients for two decades. Dr. Charles Higgins, MD, founded Spectrum’s Regional Block Program in 2002. It’s now managed by Dr. Orion Nohr.

You can learn more about our anesthesiology services here. If you’re interested in using a regional block as part of your pain management for an upcoming procedure, be sure to talk with your anesthesiologist about it at your pre-operative appointment.

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