Regional Anesthesia

What is regional anesthesia?

Regional anesthesia makes a specific body part number to pain.

Surgeon performing an ankle nerve block.
 
 

What are the goals of regional anesthesia?

The goals are to make the foot and ankle numb during surgery and relieve pain after surgery. This helps patients to need less medicine during surgery and after surgery.
 

When is regional anesthesia needed?

Numbing medicine may be considered for almost any surgery of the foot and ankle.
 

When should I avoid regional anesthesia?

It is not allowed in patients with certain medical conditions like blood clotting problems or active infections. Some surgeons prefer their patients not have this type of anesthesia. 
 

General Details of the Procedure

Regional anesthesia is given to patients by a medical doctor. The procedure involves injecting medicine or anesthetic near a specific nerve to numb it and the area of the foot and/or ankle that it provides feelings to. A nerve stimulator can be used to locate the nerve and decrease risk of nerve injury.
 

Specific Technique

There are several types of nerve blocks. A popliteal nerve block is used to block feeling to the lower leg, foot and ankle. A saphenous nerve block numbs feeling to the inner leg, ankle and foot. An ankle block allows just the foot to be numbed. 
 

What happens after the nerve block?

Nerve blocks usually last between eight to 24 hours.  This helps decrease pain for patients through the first night after surgery.
 

Potential Complications

A potential problem is injury to the nerve. Nerve injury can cause symptoms like tingling, burning or shooting pain in the area of the nerve, or a long-term loss of movement and/or feeling. Using a nerve stimulator decreases the chances of nerve injury. Other risks include infection or bleeding at the injection site.
 

Frequently Asked Questions

Does it hurt to have the block done?
There may be some discomfort with the needle injection. However, many patients can be given medicine to make them sleepy before the block so there is not much discomfort.
 
The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) offers information on this site as an educational service. The content of FootCareMD, including text, images and graphics, is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnoses or treatments. If you need medical advice, use the "Find an Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Surgeon" tool at the top of this page or contact your primary doctor.