Understanding Peripheral Nerve Blocks (PNBs)

Regional anesthesia is medicine that numbs a section of your body. Peripheral nerve blocks (PNBs) are a type of regional anesthesia. To do the block, a healthcare provider injects numbing medicine into a certain nerve or bundle of nerves. The area below the nerves is then numbed for a time.

Why PNBs are done

PNBs are most often used to prevent pain during surgery and for a time afterward. They can be used for your arms, hands, legs, or feet. They may also be used for your neck, face, or groin. PNBs provide pain relief that lasts longer than local anesthesia. They can also be used to numb smaller areas of the body than other types of regional anesthesia.

How PNBs are done

  • An IV (intravenous) line may be put into a vein in your arm or hand. This line provides fluids and medicines.

  • Medical staff closely watches your blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate during the procedure.

  • You may be given medicine to help you relax and make you sleepy.

  • The healthcare provider identifies the nerves to be numbed. He or she may do this with the help of ultrasound or nerve stimulation. The injection site is chosen.

  • The provider inserts a needle with the medicine (anesthetic) at the injection site. He or she injects the medicine.

  • The targeted part of your body becomes numb within 10 to 30 minutes. The area stays numb throughout the procedure.

After the procedure is done, the numbness slowly wears off over the next 6 to 30 hours, depending on the type of medicine used.

Risks of PNBs

  • Bruising at the injection site

  • Nerve injury

  • Reaction to the anesthetic

  • Injury to the numbed area of the body