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Regional Anesthesia - Types, Indications, Contraindications and Usages.

Published on Oct 05, 2022 and last reviewed on Dec 08, 2022   -  5 min read


Regional anesthesia is preferred over general anesthesia. This topic explains regional anesthesia, its types, indications, contraindications, and usage.


Regional anesthesia is a technique used for pain prevention during surgeries affecting a more significant body part like the arm, legs, and shoulder to get numb or anesthetized. In this anesthesia, a body, after getting sedative, makes the patient conscious during the surgery. As a result, only the surgical body part gets numb and lacks sensation allowing the respective surgeon to proceed with the surgery. There are many types of regional anesthesia, but we prefer the three epidural, peripheral nerve, and spinal blocks.

What Is Regional Anesthesia?

Regional anesthesia is a semiconscious being of a patient during surgery, given for arresting the pain and motor functions of the body part and making it comfortable for the patient to go for surgeries painlessly, lowering the postoperative pain. Regional anesthesia, along with painkillers, has some sedatives in medication. If a low amount of sedative dose is added to medicine, it wakes the patient during the surgery. If a moderate amount of sedative is used, it gives a drowsy effect; if a high dosage is used, it makes the patient go to sleep.

What Are the Types of Regional Anesthesia?

Mainly there are three regional anesthesia:

  • Epidural Anesthesia - Anesthesia given in the epidural space outside the spinal sac by injection or a tiny catheter is called epidural anesthesia. It is mainly used in cases of cesarean surgeries.

  • Spinal Anesthesia - Anesthesia given in the spinal sac by injection or tiny catheter is spinal anesthesia. It is primarily used in the urinary tract, genital, and epidural.

  • Peripheral Anesthesia - Anesthesia given to extremities involving arms, knees, legs, and shoulders. It is further divided into many peripheral anesthesias. A few are mentioned below:

  1. Brachial Plexus Block - It is given to the arm and shoulders that cover the scapular region, forearm, and hands.

  2. Femoral Nerve Block - It is given to legs covering the anterior thigh and knee areas and skin on the medial leg and foot.

  3. Sciatic Nerve Block - It blocks the back of the thigh, hips, buttocks, and most of the leg below the knee.

How Is Regional Anesthesia Administered?

Regional anesthesia is administered in various patient positions, depending on the block required, but cleaning the skin with antiseptic solution remains the initial step to prevent infection.

  • Epidurals - Epidurals are given to the patient by making the patient sit or lay on one side, it is shown in the back after cleaning the back with the antiseptic solution, and local anesthesia is applied to block the pain initially for the epidurals given. A special needle with an exact and appropriate form of medicine is placed in the epidural space outside the spinal sac. After maintaining the proper position, the catheter is taped, and the needle is removed. It takes 10 to 20 minutes to work. The catheter was left for a few days after the surgery to provide medicine for pain relief. It lasts for about two to three hours.

  • Spinal Blocks - Spinal block in the patient is given either by sitting or lying on one side. Soon the antiseptic solution is applied to the back for cleaning, and local anesthesia is given. A catheter and needle are inserted, but in a few cases, the catheter and the needle are removed. It also takes nearly ten to 20 minutes to start working. It lasts for two to four hours.

  • Brachial Plexus Block - The patient's skin is made to clean with an antiseptic solution before the brachial plexus block. The doctor uses ultrasound guidance and a nerve stimulator to identify the nerve to block. It lasts for about 24 hours.

  • Femoral Nerve Block - Femoral nerve block is used in the surgeries of the thigh and knee. The patient is made to lie on the back (supine), and an antiseptic solution is applied. An ultrasound probe is used for femoral nerve location or a needle stimulator to identify the nerve's position. A local anesthetic is given after nerve location. A needle is inserted towards the nerve, and a catheter is left. It lasts for about one to four hours.

  • Sciatic Nerve Block - Sciatic block is commonly used for the surgeries of knees, calf, feet, and ankles. The patient lies on their belly, and the area to be treated is cleaned with antiseptic. An ultrasound probe for scanning the site is used, or a nerve stimulator for identifying the location of the nerve. The local anesthetic is applied after nerve location. A needle is used to provide medicine to the nerve but without touching the nerve. It also lasts for eight to ten hours, depending on the type used for the anesthetic.

How Long Does Regional Anesthesia Last?

The duration of regional anesthesia depends on the doctor's dosages during surgery and the medication used. Ideally, the initial dose takes nearly 4 to 24 hours to weaken the levels of numbness and rest depending on postoperative pains; the doctor even goes for its continued use after surgery to relieve the patient from pain post-surgery.

What Makes a Regional Anesthetic?

Drugs for regional anesthesia are similar to drugs used in local anesthesia. Lidocaine, Mepivacaine, Bupivacaine, Etidocaine, Ropivacaine, and Chloroprocaine, depending on the longevity of the anesthetic, are given along with the Opioids in combination.

How Are Local, Regional, and General Anesthesia Different?

There are differences between local anesthesia, general anesthesia, and regional anesthesia, but the requirement of the surgery decides the best anesthesia used in that particular surgery.

  • Local Anesthesia - Local anesthesia is required when a small or limited area of body tissue needs to anesthetize without involving the whole body part attached to that tissue. It is used in minor surgeries.

  • Regional Anesthesia - Regional anesthesia makes the part of the body get anesthetized by remaining the patient conscious during surgery. It is used in major surgeries for the arm, shoulder, leg, knee, etc.

  • General Anesthesia - General anesthesia makes the patient unconscious during surgeries, and it is used in major surgeries to treat cancer, heart and brain surgeries, knee and hip replacements, etc.

What Are the Indications and Complications of Regional Anesthesia?


  • Gastrointestinal (stomach or hepatic) surgeries.
  • Ophthalmology surgeries.
  • Cesarean surgeries for females.

  • Orthopedic surgeries.

  • Pelvic surgeries.

  • Thoracic surgeries.


  • Bruising.

  • Infection.

  • Bleeding may occur.

  • Headache.

  • Allergies can develop.

  • The patient with sciatic nerve block may have difficulty with weight bearing on blocked legs.


Regional anesthesia is required in significant surgeries and for patient comfort-ness during surgery. Instead of going for general anesthesia, doctors usually go for regional ones. It can also be used as a pain medicine after surgery to relieve the patient from postoperative pains as long as the patient cannot go for oral pain medicines. Regional anesthesia is used in many surgeries, including pelvic, thoracic, and cesarean, and even has a complication of bruising, infection, and headache.


Last reviewed at:
08 Dec 2022  -  5 min read




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