Regional anesthesia

Regional anesthesia

If you are before surgery that will be done under regional anesthesia, you’ll certainly want to know as much as possible about the process and the way the anesthesia is done. Remember – the more prepared you show up and the more you know, the more your anxiety would decrease and you’ll be calmer towards the procedure.

What is regional anesthesia?

Regional anesthesia can be defined as a type of anesthesia that’s between local anesthesia and general anesthesia: regional anesthesia is, in fact, a stronger and more comprehensive version of the local anesthesia, but the patient remains fully aware – as opposed to  general anesthesia, where the entire body is numb and the patient isn’t even conscious or aware of the surroundings.

Regional anesthesia, as can be understood from its name, is anesthesia that affects a whole region of the body and makes it ‘fall asleep’, meaning makes it lose feeling. Under this anesthesia, pretty big surgeries can be performed, one of the common ones is the C-section.

The idea behind regional anesthesia is putting some anesthetic into the point adjacent to a large and central nerve – a nerve in charge of the feeling in a large region of the body. Inserting the substance will temporarily neutralize the action of the nerve and as a result, it will stop signaling to the brain about pain in the whole region on which it’s in charge.

Types of regional anesthesia

3 types of regional anesthesia can be addressed:

  • Epidural anesthesia: anesthesia during which an anesthetic is injected into the epidural space, adjacent to the spine. Inserting the anesthetic to this region causes it to lose feeling from the groin down, and that’s why it’s used a lot during births. In contrast to popular belief, an epidural is not the anesthetic but is that space adjacent to the spine, as said, in which the regional anesthesia takes place
  • Spinal anesthesia: this is stronger regional anesthesia that works on the spine itself. This anesthesia causes the lower part of the body to go numb, but it also includes the abdominal muscles and is considered more substantial. This is the anesthesia usually used by doctors during a C-section
  • Nerve paralysis: sometimes regional anesthesia is done that is perceived as paralyzing a specific nerve – a central nerve that affects a very large region. A common example is paralysis of the brachial plexus, the arm plexus going by each of the shoulders, causing numbing throughout the arm from the shoulder to the fingertips.

Is the preparation required for regional anesthesia?

You usually won’t be required to fast before regional anesthesia, but since this is relatively comprehensive anesthesia, which requires expertise and great skill, it’s likely that you’ll meet the anesthesiologist before the procedure. Meeting with the anesthesiologist is an important stage of your preparation. Beyond testing relevant indices performed by the anesthesiologist, this is your time to ask questions about the procedure and to understand what’s expected down the road in all that relates to anesthesia and the recovery process.

What happens during the anesthesia?

Regional anesthesia is done in 2 ways: one: via injection, then the anesthetic will be inserted into the body only once and affect it for a certain and limited time. The other: by inserting a catheter (a thin and long tube) to the point or space the medical staff seeks to sedate.  Anesthesia done in this way provides the patient or doctor the ability to ‘stream’ more anesthetic into the desired location during the medical action itself, if there’s a need for it, and by doing so to extend the duration of the anesthesia. One of the best-known cases in this context is the use of the clicker available to a woman giving birth, and allowing her to reduce the intensity of the paid during delivery.

Anesthetics that are used for regional anesthesia

During the regional anesthesia, there is the use of various narcotics, as in any anesthesia, actually. The intensity of the anesthetics, of course, will be stronger in this anesthesia compared to local anesthesia. Similar to local anesthesia, these substances also kick in quick – which makes regional anesthesia preferred over local anesthesia in urgent cases like C-sections following delivery complications.

Anesthesia recovery

Since throughout the anesthesia stages you’ll be fully conscious, recovering from it will be fairly short. Usually, the anesthetics will wear off within only a few hours. However, when it’s anesthesia of the upper body, you should go back to your routine slowly and with control, since the leg muscles were inactive for a relatively long period of time.

What side effects are caused by regional anesthesia?

Regional anesthesia is considered of course lighter than general anesthesia, but it’s also characterized by possible side effects, like any medical treatment. Using anesthetics must be controlled and by a certified anesthesiologist, since too high a dose might cause effects like vomiting, fatigue and more – and even damage the heart and nervous system.

In this context, we should note another thing: it’s very important that regional anesthesia is done by an anesthesiologist specializing in this type of anesthesia, as the anesthesia process – as we noted earlier – involves central and very sensitive nerves. Therefore, an anesthesiologist experienced in general anesthesia will not necessarily be right for regional anesthesia.

For this reason, regional anesthesia is considered to have similar risks as general anesthesia, and this is despite the fact that from the patient’s point of view, general anesthesia is considered more substantial and difficult. Either way, when it’s done by an experienced anesthesiologist, there’s no need to worry or be concerned: you are in good hands and are treated by a professional who will do the best job possible.


Contact information

Herzliya Medical Center

Tel: +972-9-959-4888