What Is Regional Anesthesia?

Regional anesthesia makes a specific body part numb so that surgery can be performed. The goals are to temporarily make the foot and ankle numb so that the patient feels less pain during and after surgery. This also helps patients need less pain medicine and other anesthetics 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. Your foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons may not recommend this type of anesthesia depending on the procedure, so be sure to discuss your options with your surgeon and your anesthesiologist before undergoing surgery.


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 commonly used for foot and ankle surgeries. A popliteal nerve block is placed behind the knee and is used to block feeling to the lower leg, foot, and ankle. An adductor canal or saphenous nerve block can be placed in the inner thigh to numb 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 can help decrease pain for patients through the first night after surgery.

Risks and Complications

A rare but potential problem is injury to the nerve while performing the block. 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. Other risks include infection or bleeding at the injection site.

Does the nerve block hurt?

There may be some discomfort with the needle injection. Medication may be given to relax the patient before the block so there is not as much discomfort.


Original article by Katie Grier, MD
Jamal Ahmad, MD; Wen Chao, MD; David Lee, MD

The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) offers information on this site as an educational service. The content of FootCareMD, including text, images, and graphics, is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnoses or treatments. If you need medical advice, use the "Find a Surgeon" search to locate a foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon in your area.