Nerve block anesthesia is an anesthetic that is injected into a nerve, or group of nerves, for purposes of pain control, therapy, and treatment of damaged nerves. The anesthesia is used during surgery and other medical procedures as well as therapeutic treatments for such ailments as lower back pain and migraine headaches. In some cases, nerve block anesthesia is used to destroy a nerve. Common examples of nerve blocks include numbing during dental procedures and epidurals given for childbirth.
There are several types of nerve blocks, and their application depends on both the area of the body being treated and the type of treatment. For example, ophthalmic nerve blocks are applied to the eyelids or scalp, and lumbar epidural blocks are used for the neck and back, both for purposes of pain management. Other blocks not only help to ease pain, but help doctors make a diagnosis. A sympathetic nerve block, for example, is used to determine if damage has occurred to the sympathetic nervous system. A series of medications are injected to shut down the sympathetic nervous system in the afflicted area; if pain is relieved, doctors can diagnose of sympathetically mediated pain.
A nerve block anesthesia is injected after doctors isolate the affected area. Doctors commonly use a small device known as a nerve stimulator to find the nerves that control pain output in the area. Patients typically feel numbness immediately and often lose the ability to control the effected body part. Depending on the type of procedure, special equipment may be used to monitor vital signs, such as blood pressure and oxygen levels. An anesthesiologist may administer the nerve block and observe the patient’s health during the procedure.
In therapeutic treatments, nerve blocks are frequently used for patients suffering from acute pain. They are also used to diagnose the source of pain. This is achieved through injecting a nerve block with a limited duration of effect. If it is determined that nerve is causing unnecessary pain, the nerve tissue may be permanently destroyed by using alcohol or phenol. If the pain persists, surgery may be used to remedy the problem.
As with other medications, nerve block anesthesia is not risk free. Side effects may include elevation in blood sugar, weight gain, and even death. Patients are usually unaware of any allergies they may have to such treatments. Caregivers often monitor a patient’s health closely during and after the use of nerve block anesthesia. Despite the wide array of nerve blocks, they cannot be used to treat all pain. If the pain is not isolated to a single or small group of nerves, the treatment may not be effective.