Regional Anesthesia and Acute Pain Management
Improving Your Recovery
You and your surgeon may have already discussed some of the options you have available for types of anesthesia for your scheduled procedure:
This important decision depends on your preferences, what your anesthesiologist recommends, and what your surgeon wants, as well. If your surgery involves your arm (shoulder and down), your leg (hip and down), or an incision in your chest or abdomen, regional anesthesia is often a good option to consider. Regional anesthesia is routinely provided for hundreds of patients at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center (WFBMC) each month to enhance their recovery. Simply put, regional anesthesia is the process of putting a part of your body to sleep by using numbing medicine injected through a needle. In many cases, numbing medicines can also be given through a catheter (a tiny tube positioned next to nerves) for several days. In this case, physicians of the Regional Anesthesia and Acute Pain Management (RAAPM) Team will visit you after surgery to help your surgeon control your pain. Most patients prefer that regional anesthesia be combined in the operating room (OR) with medicines given through an IV to provide relaxation and sleep. This is why it is our routine to start giving IV medicines before the OR, and even before we place any needles.
For some surgeries, regional anesthesia is typically combined with deep unconsciousness followed by a breathing tube placement while you are unconscious in the OR. Alternatively, for some other surgeries, some specific medical conditions, or surgical preferences, it is best to avoid certain types of regional anesthesia or to use general anesthesia without any regional anesthesia. This decision will be confirmed with you on the day of surgery.
As with any type of surgical or medical treatment, side effects are possible. For regional anesthesia, these include incomplete pain relief, soreness or bruising at the needle site, or tingling or weakness that may last for some days, but rarely for weeks or months. Spinals and epidurals can cause headaches about 1% of the time. Serious complications are fortunately very rare and are similar to those resulting from the surgery: injury from infection, injury from bleeding, or injury to a nerve.
Some proven advantages of regional anesthesia are:
- Better pain relief
- Less narcotic use
- Earlier mobility
- Less nausea
- Better bowel function
- Less blood loss and less risk of blood clots (for some surgeries)