Regional anesthesia is a special technique used by anesthesiologists to provide anesthesia to a region of the body. This is in contrast to general anesthesia, in which anesthesia is intended to cover the whole body.
Regional anesthesia involves application of local anesthetics to a specific set of nerves to block sensation and movement to that part of the body. This is known as a nerve block. Patients feel no pain or discomfort and may choose to go to sleep (twilight sleep) during surgery. Patients may also receive sedatives prior to the nerve block to lessen anxieties and undergo a deeper sedation once the nerve block is complete.
There are many benefits of regional anesthesia compared to general anesthesia for orthopedic surgery. Typically, less medication is used in regional anesthesia. Patients continue to breathe on their own and do not require assistance from a ventilator. Patients commonly wake up from sedation a little quicker and experience less residual effects of anesthetics. Depending on the type and location, the nerve block may continue to provide pain relief well after the surgery. For certain operations, there are other additional benefits, such as reduced stress response, less blood loss, and lower incidence of developing blood clots.
The Department of Anesthesiology at Hospital for Special Surgery specializes in the use of regional anesthesia in orthopedic surgery. Other than spine surgery, almost all orthopedic procedures are frequently done under regional anesthesia.