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Nerve Blocks

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Evolution of Nerve Blocks

Local anesthetic, also known as numbing medicine, is medication that takes away the sensation of pain. Injection of local anesthetic has been used since the late 19th century. This medication can be injected in two ways:

1) Field block – the local anesthetic is injected directly into the surgical field (meaning the area where the surgery is being performed)

2) Nerve block – the local anesthetic is injected into a specific nerve (or bundle of nerves) outside of the surgical field. This creates numbness in a particular area of the body, depending on which nerve was injected.

A field or nerve block typically lasts for several hours, depending on the type of local anesthetic used, allowing a patient to awake from surgery without pain. Nerve blocks have many other uses outside of relieving postsurgical pain including therapeutic (treat chronic pain), diagnostic (determine the source of pain), and prognostic (determine if permanent nerve ablative procedures would be helpful).

It is important to note that nerve blocks may affect muscle control in addition to sensation, depending on which nerve was treated. Weakness from a block will resolve as the local anesthetic wears off.

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