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Peripheral Nerve Block


What is a peripheral nerve block? A peripheral nerve block is anesthesia medicine given to numb a part of your body. The arm and leg are the most common areas for a peripheral nerve block. Other areas include the head, neck, back, abdomen, and hip area.

Why might I need a peripheral nerve block? You may need a peripheral nerve block during surgery or a procedure. It can decrease your risk for nausea, vomiting, and drowsiness. You may have less pain after surgery, and be able to go home sooner. Peripheral nerve blocks can also be used to treat severe or long-term pain.

What do I need to know about a peripheral nerve block? Tell your caregiver if you or anyone in your family has ever had problems with anesthesia. This includes an allergy to local anesthesia medicine, such as lidocaine.

How is a peripheral nerve block done?

  • You may receive medicine in your IV to make you sleepy and more relaxed. Your caregiver may use an ultrasound or nerve stimulator to find the nerves to numb. An ultrasound uses sound waves to show pictures of the body area on a monitor. A nerve stimulator uses a small electrical current that causes your muscle to twitch when the nerve is found. A tourniquet may be placed on your arm or leg. The tourniquet puts pressure on your blood vessels to decrease or stop blood flow to the area being operated on.

  • Once the nerves are found, a needle is put through your skin into the tissue near the nerve. Anesthesia medicine is given through the needle into tissues around the nerve to be numbed. Medicine to reduce bleeding may also be given. There may be some discomfort when the numbing medicine is given. Your body part may feel tingly before it becomes numb.

What happens after I have a peripheral nerve block? You will be monitored until the numbness goes away. It may take a while before you can move the area that was numbed. If you are staying in the hospital, you may be taken to your room. If you will go home, you may be allowed to leave once you have feeling in the numbed area.

What are the risks of a peripheral nerve block? Risks will vary based on where you had your peripheral nerve block. You may have bruising, bleeding, pain, or get an infection in the area where the nerve block medicine was given. You may have a hoarse voice, or blurry vision and a droopy eye. This is usually temporary. You may not be able to feel pain in the peripheral nerve block area for about 4 to 18 hours. Until you have full feeling back, you are at risk for falls and injury. You may have an allergic reaction to the anesthesia. If the medicine enters a vein or you get too much, you may get headaches and have muscle twitching. You could also have a seizure or a heart attack. The peripheral nerve block may cause nerve damage, chronic pain, or loss of function of the body part. A peripheral nerve block in your upper body may damage your lungs.

When should I contact my caregiver? Contact your caregiver if:

  • You have a fever.

  • You have increased numbness or pain in the peripheral nerve block area.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care? Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You have a severe headache or muscle twitching that does not go away.

  • You have nausea or are vomiting.

  • You feel faint.

  • You have a seizure.

  • You have chest pain or shortness of breath.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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