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Anesthesia Information and Emergency Medicine

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How are Nerve Blocks used?

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When local anesthetic is injected around a larger diameter nerve that transmits sensation from an entire region it is referred to as a nerve block or regional nerve blockade.

Nerve blocks are commonly used in dentistry, when the mandibular nerve is blocked for procedures on the lower teeth. With larger diameter nerves (such as the interscalene block for upper limbs or psoas compartment block for lower limbs) the nerve and position of the needle is localized with ultrasound or electrical stimulation. The use of ultrasound may reduce complication rates and improve quality, performance time, and time to onset of blocks.

Because of the large amount of local anesthetic required to affect the nerve, the maximum dose of local anesethetic has to be considered. Nerve blocks are also used as a continuous infusion, following major surgery such as knee, hip and shoulder replacement surgery, and may be associated with lower complications. Nerve blocks are also associated with a lower risk of neurologic complications compared to the more central epidural or spinal neuraxial blocks.

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