What Is Regional Anesthesia?

Regional anesthesia makes a specific body part numb so that surgery can be performed. The goals are to make the foot and ankle numb during surgery and relieve pain after surgery. This helps patients need less medicine during and after surgery. 

Regional anesthesia may be considered for almost any surgery of the foot and ankle. It is not allowed in patients with certain medical conditions like blood clotting problems or active infections. Some foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons prefer their patients not have this type of anesthesia.  


Regional anesthesia is given to patients by a medical doctor. The procedure involves injecting anesthetic medication near a specific nerve to numb it and the area of the foot and/or ankle that it provides feeling to.  

There are several types of nerve blocks. A popliteal nerve block is used to block feeling to the lower leg, foot, and ankle. A saphenous nerve block numbs feeling to the inner leg, ankle, and foot. An ankle block allows just the foot to be numbed.  


Nerve blocks usually last 8-24 hours. This helps decrease pain for patients through the first night after surgery.

Risks and Complications

A potential problem is injury to the nerve. Nerve injury can cause symptoms like tingling, burning, or shooting pain in the area of the nerve, or a long-term loss of movement and/or feeling. Using a nerve stimulator for popliteal nerve block decreases the chances of nerve injury. Other risks include infection or bleeding at the injection site.

Does the nerve block hurt?

There may be some discomfort with the needle injection. However, most of the time, medication is given to make the patient sleepy before the block so there is not much discomfort.


Original article by Jamal Ahmad, MD
Contributors/Reviewers: Wen Chao, MD

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