The ankle block is a combination of 5 injections around the foot and ankle. Before the performance of the block, you will receive medicine to sedate you. Only after you are adequately sedated will the anesthesiologist proceed with the injections. We do this so that you will not feel any discomfort during the performance of the block. In fact, you probably won’t even remember you had the procedure.
Once sedated, the anesthesiologist will clean your foot and ankle with an iodine solution, identical to the solution used by the surgeons. Then he or she will use very thin needles to inject a local anesthetic, similar to lidocaine, to numb a portion of the foot. Depending on where on the foot the surgery takes place, this may involve 4 to 5 different nerves.
After surgery, you may notice some bruising around the ankle. That is where the anesthetics were injected. Accordingly, you may notice that actual injection points around the ankle. Because we use very thin needles, the marks are not long lasting.
Your foot may be numb for 8 to sometimes 48 hours depending on the medicines used and your sensitivity to local anesthetics. Some may find the sensation of a numb foot discomforting, while others enjoy the long lasting pain relief.
The ankle block provides a numb foot, but the patient can still move the leg and foot. Because any movement precludes precise surgery, the surgeon often requests that either a spinal, epidural, or deep sedation be performed. When those anesthetics wear off, it is the ankle block that will provide the long lasting pain relief.
As with any anesthetic, there are risks and benefits to ankle blocks. These particulars can be discussed with your anesthesiologist before your surgery.