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Local anaesthetic

How local anaesthetic works and what treatments it’s used for

Doctor holds a patient's hand after administering a local anaesthetic
Local anaesthetic is a form of medication that numbs an area of your body during an operation. This is generally used for very minor procedures where you don't have to stay in hospital. You will be awake while under local anaesthesia, unlike in the case of general anaesthetic, which is used for more intense treatments and puts you to sleep for the entire procedure. A sedative is sometimes also used during treatments involving local anaesthetic, as this helps you relax during the treatment.

Private local anaesthesia is used for a wide range of treatments and leaves you feeling numb for a few hours afterwards. This is because the local anaesthetic works by preventing the nerves in your affected area from communicating sensations to your brain, and continues to take effect after your surgery is completed. We will provide you with pain relief medication to deal with any discomfort you might feel once the local anaesthetic stops working.

If you would like to know more about local anaesthesia, or any other forms of anaesthetic we used for surgeries, please feel free to get in touch with us. Call us on 0141 300 5009 to find out more.

This page explains everything you need to know about local anaesthetic, including different types, how it's administered, and any potential side effects.

Local anaesthetic block (dorsal root ganglion) (local anaesthetic)

Please be aware that the following prices are a guide price. Your final price will be confirmed in writing following your consultation and any necessary diagnostic tests.

Patient pathway Initial consultation Diagnostic Investigations Main treatment Post discharge care Guide price
Hospital fees N/A Not included £2,575 Included £2,575
Consultants fees from £200 N/A Included Included £200
Guide price £2,775

Local anaesthetic block (major nerve trunk)

Please be aware that the following prices are a guide price. Your final price will be confirmed in writing following your consultation and any necessary diagnostic tests.

Patient pathway Initial consultation Diagnostic Investigations Main treatment Post discharge care Guide price
Hospital fees N/A Not included £2,075 Included £2,075
Consultants fees from £200 N/A Included Included £200
Guide price £2,275

Removal of lump on nerve (local anaesthetic)

Please be aware that the following prices are a guide price. Your final price will be confirmed in writing following your consultation and any necessary diagnostic tests.

Patient pathway Initial consultation Diagnostic Investigations Main treatment Post discharge care Guide price
Hospital fees N/A Not included £2,300 Included £2,300
Consultants fees from £200 N/A Included Included £200
Guide price £2,500

Local anaesthesia is generally used for minor procedures that don't take up too much time or require your breathing to be monitored by an oxygen and carbon dioxide analyser. These surgeries are outpatient surgeries, meaning you can go home on the same day. Some surgeries that may use local anaesthetic include:

Sometimes, local anaesthetic may be used for certain types of brain surgery, during which it's important for you to be awake so that you can communicate with your surgeon.

You won't need to do much preparation for receiving local anaesthetic. Make sure you tell your consultant about any blood thinning medications you're taking (aspirin, warfarin, anti-inflammatories), as these might cause unwanted bleeding during and/or after your surgery.

Before your local anaesthetic

You will be taken to one of our hospital operating theatres, at which point your anaesthetist will explain how everything works. If they are going to provide an injection for the local anaesthetic, your anaesthetist may place a drip in your hand that is attached to a monitor, allowing staff to keep an eye on your heart rate, blood pressure, and blood oxygen levels, although this isn't always necessary.

During your local anaesthetic

The site of your injection will be cleaned with anti-septic, after which an injection can then be made into the soft tissues around your affected area with a thin needle. During this injection, you will need to remain very still, and you shouldn't feel any discomfort. Some local anaesthetic injections work almost immediately, while others take around 30 minutes.

Once the local anaesthetic has taken effect, your surgeon may also give you a minor sedative to keep you relaxed, at which point they will be able to start the surgical procedure. Once the local anaesthetic has taken affect, you won't feel anything in the area at all, nor will you be able to see the surgery taking place.

After local anaesthetic

The numbness around your affected area lasts for around four to six hours, although this can be more or less, depending on the kind of anaesthetic that was used. You may find that you experience a burning and/or tingling sensation as the local anaesthetic wears off.

Due to the way adrenaline is often contained within a local anaesthetic, your blood vessel size may have reduced, meaning that your skin looks lighter in colour. It could be that you have some bleeding around your dressing, but this is normal. Take care to not aggravate this area at all after the surgery.

The type of local anaesthetic that is used for your surgery depends on the severity of your procedure and the location of your affected area. There are three main kinds of local anaesthetics that your surgeon might use, which include:

Nerve blocks

A nerve block, or a peripheral nerve block, is a local anaesthetic injection that numbs the nerves supplying a particular part of your body. This is particularly useful when operating on an area such as your hand or toe. Often, using nerve blocks means general anaesthetic isn't used, although your surgeon may also use a sedative to make sure you're relaxed during the treatment. The injection is made near the relevant nerves, and can be used for treatments like spinal surgery or caesarean sections.

Epidural and spinal anaesthetics

An epidural is a local anaesthetic injected through a tube into your epidural space, which is an area of your lower back next to your spine, while a spinal injection is a single injection into a similar space in the back. Both injections create a numbness from around your bellybutton to your upper legs, and are often used to ease pain levels during childbirth or when a caesarean section is required. By numbing large areas of your body, it prevents pain signals from travelling along the nerves in your spine, making it a highly effective form of pain relief.

To administer an epidural, your back will be cleaned with cold fluid and your skin will be numbed with a local anaesthetic, which may sting for a few seconds. A needle will then be passed through the space between your bones to find the space for your surrounding spinal cord, which is then sedated. Please be careful to stay perfectly still while this is happening.

Local application (topical anaesthetic)

Your consultant and/or surgeon may also use a local application anaesthetic (or topical anaesthetic), which can be applied directly to your skin or in the inside of your mouth, throat, or nose, as well as the surface of your eye. These topical anaesthetics can be:

  • Liquids
  • Creams
  • Gels
  • Patches
  • Sprays

It is possible that these topical anaesthetics may be used alongside local anaesthetic injections for various treatments, including:

  • Anything involving a needle poke
  • Applying and/or removing stitches
  • Inserting an IV (intravenous therapy, where fluids are injected into your veins)
  • Inserting a catheter (soft hollow tube inserted into your body to drain and/or monitor fluids)
  • Laser treatments
  • Cataract surgery
  • Endoscopy (a test to look inside your body)

Your consultant may recommend a series of over-the-counter topical anaesthetics to help you manage pain from issues like:

  • Dental issues
  • Open wounds
  • Sore throat
  • Burns
  • Rashes
  • Bug bites
  • Haemorrhoids

There are some key advantages to having local anaesthetic instead of general anaesthetic, such as:

Safer than general anaesthetic

Local anaesthetic has fewer risks and disadvantages compared with general anaesthetic. Following general anaesthesia, you might have a sore throat if a tube was inserted in your throat, along with potentially being fatigued and/or nauseated, while this is much less likely to be the case with local anaesthetic. There is a reduced chance of bleeding and/or vomiting after local anaesthetic. General anaesthetic may also cause more complications with your heart and breathing - especially if you are a smoker.

Faster recovery time

Due to the fact that fewer drugs are needed, and less preparation is required, recovery from local anaesthesia is usually must faster. Most surgical treatments delivered are not as invasive and present fewer risks to your body; you'll feel much more 'in control' after local anaesthesia. You will most likely be able to go home on the same day as your treatment, and you should be able to return to normal eating, walking, and work faster - depending on the type of job you do - than if your surgery was done under general anaesthetic.

Although surgery with local anaesthetic is less invasive than general anaesthetic surgery, there are some precautions that you'll need to take once you return home from your procedure.

Rest and ice

Your local anaesthetic may last for quite a bit longer than your operation - in some cases 8 hours - so be careful to avoid any movements that could aggravate the injury. There are some movements that you'll be able to do (lifting your arm, bending your finger, etc.) that may seem pain-free due to the local anaesthetic that may end up making the situation worse and causing damage to any stitches, which will be removed a few days after your surgery at one of our clinics.

If you don't properly rest the area during this initial period, you may experience pain once the anaesthetic wears off, potentially leading to further complications. So, for the first few days, be sure to rest the affected area as much as possible.

Pain medication

After your local anaesthetic wears off, it is possible that you'll feel some discomfort. You may be given a combination of painkillers, depending on the surgery you had. You might be given paracetamol, anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen, or codeine. To keep yourself comfortable and ensure inflammation goes down, be sure to administer pain relief when necessary. In most cases, you should not need to take painkillers for more than a week after having surgery performed under local anaesthetic.

Avoid driving until anaesthetic wears off

Whether you can drive after surgery with local anaesthesia depends on the type of anaesthetic used and what kind of procedure you had. If the surgery affects any parts of your body that are important for driving (your feet and/or hands), you will need to wait until you have complete feeling and strength in these areas before getting behind the wheel. In situations where you were given a sedative as well as local anaesthetic, please wait for around 24 hours before you drive. You must be absolutely sure that you can control your vehicle before going anywhere.

Naturally, you might have some questions about local anaesthetic that you'll want to ask.

How long does it take local anaesthetic to wear off?

The exact length of time you will feel the effects of local anaesthetic differs depending on the type used by your surgeon. Some kinds of anaesthetic may cause you to feel numbness for one or two hours, while others may not wear off for six to eight hours.

Can I have local anaesthetic if I'm pregnant?

It has been shown that lidocaine, which is the most commonly used form of local anaesthetic, has almost no effect on you or your foetus, so you are safe to have local anaesthetic when pregnant. Your consultant will always be careful to check that the medication you are given doesn't compromise the health of your pregnancy in any way.

Can I eat and drink before local anaesthetic?

Yes. As long as your operation doesn't involve your digestive system or bladder, you should be able to eat or drink as normal before your operation. However, please do refrain from drinking alcohol for 24 hours before your treatment.

What if I don't want to be awake during my operation?

If you don't want to be awake during your surgery, we can offer general anaesthetic instead, which means you'll be asleep for the duration and won't feel a thing. It's so important that you are comfortable about every aspect of your surgery, so please do talk to your anaesthetist about any preferences you might have beforehand.

Some issues with local anaesthesia can occur, but these are extremely rare. Your consultant will speak with you about the potential risks involved before scheduling you in for surgery.

  • Redness on your skin
  • Bruising around site of local anaesthetic
  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Blood clotting
  • Headache
  • Nerve damage
  • Allergic reaction
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Seizure

When you choose to go private with Circle Health Group, you can expect:

  • Flexible appointment times and locations to suit your schedule
  • The freedom to choose which hospital and consultant meet your needs
  • Personalised, consultant-led treatment plans tailored to your individual requirements
  • Comfortable and safe private facilities maintained by expert multidisciplinary teams
  • Private ensuite rooms as standards and delicious healthy meals
  • Affordable, fixed-price packages with aftercare included
  • Flexible payment options to help you spread the cost of your care

If you would like to learn more about this procedure, book your appointment online today or call a member of our team directly on 0141 300 5009.

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