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:
This decision depends on what you want, what your anesthesiologist recommends, and what your surgeon wants. 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 usually a good option to consider. Regional anesthesia is part of our routine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center (WFBMC). Hundreds of our patients benefit from regional anesthesia every month. Simply put, regional anesthesia is 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 by a catheter 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 prevent 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 begin giving IV medicines before the OR and even before we place any needles.
For some surgeries, regional anesthesia must be combined with deep unconsciousness followed by a breathing tube placement while you are unconscious in the OR. There are other surgeries, medical conditions, or surgeon requests where it is better to avoid some types of regional anesthesia or to use only general anesthesia. As with any type of surgical or medical treatment, side effects are possible. For regional anesthesia, these are incomplete pain relief, soreness or bruising at the needle site, or tingling that lasts for days. Spinals and epidurals can cause headaches about 1% of the time. Serious complications are fortunately very rare and are similar to those 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)