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Nerve Blocks for Pain Control After Surgery

Nerve Blocks for Pain Control After Surgery are commonly used for:

  • Total knee replacement
  • Knee ligament reconstruction
  • Rotator cuff repair
  • Shoulder replacement
  • Leg or arm fracture requiring surgery

Nerve blocks can be used to help control the pain from surgery. They are some of the most effective and safe methods for post operative pain control.  Nerve blocks help to minimize the amount of narcotic pain medication required and therefore reduce the bad side effects commonly seen with narcotic pain medication. The quality of pain control is usually better when nerve blocks are used, frequently in combination with ibuprofen type medications and narcotic pain medications. In certain situations, your anesthesiologist may recommend placing a catheter to deliver a continuous infusion of anesthetic just beside the nerve for prolonged pain control.

Placement of peripheral nerve blocks involves injection of anesthetic medications in a precise location surrounding the nerves that are to be numbed. The injection involves minimal discomfort and usually is done while the patient is lightly sedated. Because of the sedation, some patients may have no recollection of the nerve block being performed. 

When placed in the correct location, the anesthetics stop the nerves from sending pain signals and usually stop nerve signals to the muscles. Therefore the limb affected becomes numb and weak while the nerve block is working. As the nerve block wears off over ten to twenty hours, muscle function will return followed by sensation. While the limb is numb, care must be taken to avoid unintentional injury such as crushing, cutting or burning the anesthetized arm or leg. Also be sure to start taking the pain medication your surgeon ordered for you at the first sign of increased pain. This usually means the nerve block is starting to wear off. Please contact (links to contact info) the Department of Anesthesiology if you have numbness that lasts longer than 24 hours or if you develop pain, redness or swelling at the injection site.

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