These blocks are a form of regional anaesthesia used most commonly for shoulder and arm surgery. A regional anaesthetic involves blocking the nerves that supply the area where the surgeon will be operating. This reduces the number of anaesthetic drugs we need to give which in turn reduces the incidence of side effects - feeling sick for example.
These blocks can be done whilst you are awake or asleep depending on your anaesthetist. These blocks involve numbing the nerves to your shoulder/arm as they pass through the neck. Before the block takes place, the anaesthetist will put some local anaesthetic at the site of the injection. The anaesthetist will then locate the correct nerves in the neck via a variety of techniques. These techniques may involve using ultrasound and a special needle which carries a small electrical current. When the needle with the small electrical current approaches the correct nerves, you may notice some twitching in the shoulder or arm - this is normal. Your anaesthetist will then inject some local anaesthetic around the nerves. Your arm will feel different often feeling heavy with altered sensation. This can last up to 18 hours which is also the length of the pain relief provided.
The risks of having a shoulder block include:
- Damage to structures near the nerve including blood vessels and the lung
- Other nerves may be numbed inadvertently which can lead to:
- One sided temporary facial weakness
- Change in your breathing pattern
- Failure of the block to give adequate analgesia
- Damage to the nerves that supply the arm and shoulder