Peripheral Nerve Block Infusions

What is a nerve block infusion?

Pain medicine, called a local anesthetic, can be given in the area around a nerve as a single injection, or as a continuous infusion, to decrease pain after surgery. The nerve that is used depends on the type of surgery you are having. Before surgery, a tiny tube is inserted near the nerve, and later connected to an infusion pump which delivers numbing medicine to the affected area for several days. The name of the local anesthetic, or numbing medicine, is ropivacaine [ro-piv-uh-keyn].

The pump is set to deliver a specific dose continuously.

Could I still have pain when I have a nerve block infusion?

Yes. A nerve block infusion does not guarantee that you won’t have breakthrough pain.

When you have breakthrough pain, the nurse can give you more numbing medicine through the nerve block, this is called a “bolus.” If the bolus does not make you comfortable, the nurse can give you pain medicines called “opioids” by mouth or through your IV.

Is the nerve block infusion the only pain medicine I will receive?

No. You will be prescribed a multimodal or “balanced” pain treatment plan by your doctor. This treatment plan includes two or more pain medicines that act in different ways to manage your pain. The goal is to have the best pain relief possible without side effects. While strong pain medicines (opioids) can help if you have breakthrough pain, they can also cause sleepiness, nausea, and constipation.

Having the nerve block infusion delivered directly to the area affected by your surgery decreases the need for strong pain medicines and the risk of bothersome side effects.

How will the area of my body that is getting the nerve block feel?

You will have a heavy, numb feeling to the area of the body that is affected by the nerve block infusion. It is much like the numbness you feel when the dentist injects a local anesthetic into your gum.

Will I be able to walk and perform physical therapy with a nerve block?

The nerve block can cause muscle weakness. If the nerve block infusion is affecting your leg, it is very important to ask for assistance when getting in and out of bed to prevent you from falling.

The pump used for the nerve block infusion is small and can be easily carried with you when you do physical therapy and get out of bed.

When should I call the nurse?

  • If you are experiencing pain
  • If the numb feeling is bothering you too much
  • If you want to turn or get out of bed

Or if you are experiencing:

  • A metallic taste in your mouth
  • Numbness of your tongue or lips
  • Dizziness
  • Ringing in your ears
  • Blurred vision
  • Uncontrollable shaking

How long will the nerve block infusion be used?

The infusion will be used for 2 to 3 days depending on the type of surgery. You may have more than one infusion at the same time.

How is the catheter removed?

The nurse will remove all of the tape holding the catheter in place, and then remove the small tube. This is relatively painless. Patients often tell us that removing the tape is more uncomfortable than removing the catheter.

What if I have pain after the nerve block infusion is removed?

Pain medicines are available for you if you experience breakthrough pain after the nerve block is removed. Please talk to your nurse.

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