What is local anesthesia?
Local anesthesia is the anesthetic of a limited area of the body. This can be achieved with the help of medication, which interrupts the painkiller.
The patient is thereby fully conscious, but pain-free. In contrast to general anesthesia, local anesthesia is less risky and less stressful for the patient. Read all about the procedure, when it is carried out and what benefits it offers.
Local anesthesia causes pain relief in a limited area, for example on the skin or in the supply area of whole nerves on the extremities. The drugs used (local anesthetics) interfere with signal propagation in the nerve endings. This creates a local anesthetic.
Duration and potency depend on the choice of medication and the amount used. In addition to the pain relief, the temperature and feeling as well as the muscle activity in the affected region are partly reduced.
Medical practitioners distinguish several types of local anesthesia:
- Surface anesthesia: Application of local anesthetics to the skin or mucous membrane
- Infiltration anesthesia: Injection of the local anesthetic into the skin or tissue
- Regional anesthesia: Blockade of an entire nerve, for example in the jaw or hand
When to perform local anesthesia?
Local anesthesia is necessary for pain in a circumscribed area, for example after an injury, or before certain operations.
Local anesthesia is often sufficient particularly in small interventions and a general anesthesia is not necessary. Possible reasons for local anesthesia are:
- Injuries to the extremities
- Pain relief in the throat when laying a stomach probe or a breathing tube in the waking state
- Small surgical procedures, for example the sewing of wounds
- Dental procedures
- Chronic pain, for example in the back or in muscles
- Preparation of a blood collection in children by means of an analgesic patch
In some operations, such as major knee surgery, local anesthesia is used in addition to general anesthesia.Thus, patients have less pain after surgery, which also reduces drug use.
What is done with a local anesthesia?
In general, the signal transmission to the nerves is interrupted by a local anesthesia with the help of special medications.
Pain, but also signals of pressure or temperature, are no longer transmitted to the brain from the numbed spot. Thus, no conscious sensation of these stimuli is produced in the patient.
The drugs used (local anesthetics) do not enter the blood circulation, but act only where they are applied or injected. This is why we speak of a local anesthetic. The exact procedure depends on the type of local anesthesia.
In case of surface anesthesia, the narcotic drug is applied directly to the skin or mucous membrane. Sprays, ointments and solutions are used. The agents enter the skin and block the nerves in a relatively small area.
In contrast, in the context of infiltration anesthesia, the local anesthetics are injected into the tissue, where they spread around the nerves. It is not allowed to inject a drug directly into the nerves because they can cause damage.
In regional anesthesia, one or more nerves are completely blocked. Depending on the height of the nerve, regional anesthesia can also deprive larger areas of the body. For example, in the area of the groin, local anesthetics are sprayed in order to eliminate the pain sensation on the leg.
What are the risks of local anesthesia?
Basically, local anesthesia is associated with significantly less risks than a general anesthesia, since the drugs used only act within a circumscribed range and not throughout the body.
However, larger quantities of the active substances can enter the blood circulation and then have a systemic effect. This happens, for example, when the drug is inadvertently injected into a vein, or into a region that is particularly strongly perfused. Possible complications are convulsions and / or severe cardiac arrhythmias, which may also require artificial ventilation.
Allergic reactions to a local anesthetic are also possible, albeit rarely. These are expressed, for example, in itching and reddening of the skin, but in severe cases also dyspnoea and circulatory failure. Furthermore, the puncture site can ignite after the injection of the medicament, when germs are caught.
What do I have to consider when using local anesthesia?
If your pain persists or becomes stronger despite local anesthesia, the doctor may be able to use a different procedure for pain relief. If you perceive a metallic taste or are dizzy at the beginning of the local stun, you must immediately notify your doctor as this indicates a poisoning by the local anesthesia medications.