Regional Anesthesia is the technique of rendering a portion of a patients' body insensate to surgical stimuli. A patient may be having surgery on a part of the body such as the hand, foot or shoulder and not even realize that the operation is occurring! This is accomplished by placing a local anesthetic medication (the "-caine" drugs) near the nerves which go to that portion of the body. Examples of regional blocks include spinals, epidurals or peripheral nerve blocks
There are many advantages of regional anesthesia compared to general anesthesia. Regional anesthetics have been associated with less post-operative pain and less nausea. More importantly, a lower incidence of blood clots, less blood loss, and less of a stress response by the body have also been reported. Finally, many patients who have experienced both general and regional anesthetics often prefer the "regional" experience. Regional anesthesia is particularly appealing to patients undergoing orthopedic procedures. These procedures often involve the limbs and are associated with a significant amount of post-operative pain. For this reason, anesthesiologists at Hospital for Special Surgery have dedicated themselves to perfecting the art and science of regional anesthesia.
Of course there is more to regional anesthesia than placing a local anesthetic near a nerve. Some patients prefer to be awake during the surgery and some prefer to be asleep. Either is possible with regional anesthesia. The patient's preferences can be discussed with the anesthesiologist prior to surgery.
As with general anesthesia, patients can react differently to regional anesthetics. Therefore, from the moment the patient enters the operating room until the time the patient is comfortable in the recovery room, the anesthesiologist is with the patient for the entire time. This is done to ensure the anesthetic is working perfectly and the patient is calm, comfortable and stable.
As with any anesthetic, there are risks associated with the benefits of regional anesthetics. Fortunately; serious complications associated with regional blocks are exceedingly rare. Prior to performing a regional block the anesthesiologist will discuss common and uncommon risks associated with regional anesthesia at your request.
The Department of Anesthesiology at Hospital for Special Surgery performs over 25 thousand regional anesthetics each year. This experience translates into a safe and efficient anesthetic experience for patients presenting for orthopedic surgery at Hospital for Special Surgery.