Surgeons often request an axillary block for their patients when the planned operation involves the hand, wrist, forearm, or elbow.
Before the axillary injection is performed, your anesthesiologist will provide some sedation through your intravenous line. Most likely, you won’t even remember the axillary injection.
Next, they will place your hand behind your head, as if you were lounging at the beach. He or she will clean your armpit with an iodine containing solution. They will feel your pulse with one hand and then insert a very thin, 1-inch needle through your pulse. Soon thereafter, they will inject some lidocaine-like medicine to numb your arm. After the injection, they will be squeezing your armpit for about 5 minutes while the surgical team positions your arm. Your arm and hand will get progressively more weak and numb over the next 20 minutes. During that same time, the anesthesiologist will be providing some more sedation to make your experience more comfortable.
The axillary block is a very safe and effective method for providing surgical anesthesia for the upper extremity. The numbness and heaviness lasts from 4 to 18 hours, depending on the medicines used. Most patients will have a bruise in their armpit which is painful to touch for a few days.
As with any anesthetic, there are risks and benefits to axillary blocks. These particulars can be discussed with your anesthesiologist before your surgery.