Regional and local anesthesia

Why go under?

Anesthesia techniques have improved by leaps and bounds in recent years. The current trend is to perform fewer and fewer procedures under general anesthesia and instead use the following techniques:

  • Local blocks: anaesthetic injections at the operation site
  • Regional blocks: anesthesia of peripheral nerves
  • Spinal blocks and sometimes epidurals

Local anesthesia

Local anesthesia works on a specific part of the body, like at the dentist.

Advantages of local anesthesia:

  • The patient is awake during the procedure.
  • The procedure doesn’t require fasting.
  • The patient returns home immediately after the procedure.
  • Lower risk of side effects

  • Fewer complications
  • Faster recovery, no temporary paralysis

Regional anesthesia

  • Regional anesthesia works on a region of the body. Patients aren’t put completely under.
  • A peripheral nerve is “blocked” using an ultrasound-guided injection.
  • The blocked limb is temporarily paralysed and does not feel pain for 12 to 18 hours.
  • In rare cases, temporary paralysis can last up to two days.
  • A sedative may be added to improve patient comfort.

Advantages of regional anesthesia:

  • Return home the same day with an escort
  • Lower risk of side effects
  • Fewer complications
  • Faster recovery
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Most arthroscopic shoulder, elbow, and knee procedures can now be done without general anesthesia. A mild sedative is sometimes administered to improve patient comfort. This results in faster postoperative recovery and lower anaesthetic risk.

Over the past several years, Dr. Beauchamp has had the opportunity to help advance clinical research in this field by developing new local anesthesia techniques for shoulder surgery. These techniques are beneficial to patients when other types of anesthesia are too risky.
This new expertise was the subject of an article in The Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery published in September 2009.

However, keep in mind that for certain procedures, general anesthesia is still the best option.

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