What Is Regional Anesthesia?
Anesthesia that affects a part of the body that is larger than the site being operated on. Instead of numbing the incision site, regional anesthesia affects an entire limb or lower part of the body. There are different methods to how regional anesthesia is applied: central and peripheral techniques.
When discussing central techniques it is easier to understand when methods are named by their generally recognized monikers. The two most recognized uses of this technique are the epidural and spinal. These two types of regional anesthesia are easily confused with each other as they are both injected into the spinal area.
An epidural requires an in-dwelling catheter which allows medical staff to give further injections if needed or a continuous stream during surgery if required. A spinal is usually one injection and must be given in a lower portion of the spine to avoid any possibility of puncturing the spinal cord. An epidural takes nearly a half hour to take effect and a spinal injection is almost immediate at five minutes or so.
Peripheral techniques are given through a shot or an IV. These forms of anesthesia can be given as one shot or continuous, like the spinal and epidural methods.
What is Regional Anesthesia generally used for?
Doctors and surgeons use regional or several reasons. To perform surgery while the patient is still awake, yet unable to feel the procedure is one application. This is done due to the increased safety o having a patient awake where they can inform the surgeon if they feel anything or are becoming nauseous. When under a general anesthesia, a patient that vomits can aspirate the material which creates an emergency situation. Regional anesthesia avoids this.
This method of pain relief is often used in childbirth. Spinal and epidurals can allow laboring women to still push while feeling much less pain, sometimes no pain. If a Caesarean section is needed then an epidural may be used in place of general anesthesia. This allows the mother to view her child and have a faster recovery time after birth.
For pain relief doctors use regional anesthesia known as nerve blocks or some patients. These shots can be given to help manage chronic pain conditions. People suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, degenerative back disease, and severe muscle degeneration may receive pain blocking shots on a weekly or monthly basis.
An example of a nerve block that is one many people are familiar with is the shot a veterinarian gives an animal before treatment. A shot into the muscle or a vein causes the animal to relax and not feel the examination or treatment. Such shots for humans do not involve the paralytic properties of those used in animals.
Recovering from Regional Anesthesia
After the use of regional anesthesia the recovery period is similar to that of general anesthesia. If a patient had surgery, he or she will be taken to a recovery room and monitored by nursing staff. As with general anesthesia, patients must be able to breathe on their own before they can leave the recovery room. While rare, breathing can be affected for patients that have a previously unknown sensitivity to regional anesthetics.
Nursing staff will monitor the patient and once the anesthesia has worn off, they will have the patients begin moving. Walking or sitting will help the patient avoid the formation of blood clots in the legs also known as deep vein thrombosis. It is important to keep the legs moving in some form.
Some other things that will go on during recovery is being encouraged to cough. Nurses will ask a patient to breathe deep, then cough. This activity will help open and clear the lungs. Extra fluids may be given during recovery as some people react to anesthesia with constipation. Extra fluids can relieve or possibly even prevent constipation.
In applications where the lower body is affected a catheter is usually placed. The bladder takes some time to completely ‘wake up’ from anesthesia and the catheter may be left in place for a few hours or days. After removal o the catheter the patient is encouraged to get up and walk to the bathroom to void if possible. A bedpan is used for non-ambulatory patients.
Recovery is generally complication free for most patients. Compared to general anesthesia patients typically respond favorably and have a much shorter recovery period.