Block anesthesia is management of pain in a specific area of the body accomplished by introducing anesthetic to the nerve or nerves that supply that area of the body. By blocking the passage of sensation along the nerves, the anesthesiologist can effectively make the patient insensate to pain. This technique is also known as regional anesthesia, a reference to the fact that a region of the body is blocked off by the anesthetic. Local anesthesia takes place on a smaller, localized level, like in a specific area of skin.
In order to administer block anesthesia, an anesthesiologist has to be familiar with the nerves of the body and how they work. Once a surgeon has identified a surgical site, the anesthesiologist delivers anesthetic drugs to the nerves involved and tests the site to confirm that the patient cannot feel sensations in that area. If the anesthesia has taken, the surgeon can proceed.
There are a number of advantages to using block anesthesia. The patient remains awake, alert, and aware, breathing independently and interacting with the surgical team. Surgical risks are greatly reduced by not putting the patient under general anesthesia and the patient can comply with orders. If the patient becomes anxious or restless, medications can be provided to keep the patient relaxed and comfortable. The patient is also monitored throughout the procedure for the return of sensation and other complications.
If a patient is a candidate for block anesthesia, the anesthesiologist will meet with the patient, discuss pain management goals, and screen the patient to identify any contraindicated medications or procedures. This will be used to develop a safe and effective anesthesia plan tailored to the needs of the patient and the surgeon. On the day of the procedure, anesthetic agents will be introduced via intravenous line and through direct injection into nerves around the area being operated on, and the anesthesiologist will remain with the patient during the surgery to monitor vital signs and other indicators of patient well being.
In addition to being used for surgeries, block anesthesia can also be used for pain management. People with chronic pain conditions sometimes experience relief with nerve blocks, where a nerve is temporarily incapacitated. Permanent blocks can be accomplished by damaging a nerve, and may be recommended if a patient responds well to temporary blocks. These procedures are overseen by an anesthesiologist and may also involve input from a neurologist, a medical specialist who focuses on treating conditions related to the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nervous system.