Anesthesia is a way to control pain during a surgery or
procedure by using medicine called anesthetics. It can help
control breathing, blood pressure, blood flow, and heart rate
There are several anesthesia options for patients undergoing
hand surgery. These include local anesthesia, regional
anesthesia, or general anesthesia. The type of anesthesia used
depends on the type and length of the surgery, the patient's
health and medical conditions, and preferences of the patient,
surgeon, and anesthesiologist.
The numbing medications used in regional anesthesia can
provide between one and 24 hours of pain relief, depending on
the medication used. Some local anesthetics may last as long
as three days.
With general anesthesia, the patient is unconscious and
does not feel anything during the surgery. The patient may
receive the medicine by breathing it in or through an intravenous
Local anesthesia typically means anesthesia for a small area.
With this type of anesthesia, numbing medicine is injected at
the site of surgery. The patient is wide-awake during the surgery
and can fully cooperate with any instructions from the surgeon,
such as to move the hand or fingers. It contains medicine to
stop excessive bleeding and to minimize pain in the operated
area. Other medications to help you relax can also be given with
this type of anesthesia. The relaxing medications are typically
given through an IV line.
Regional anesthesia puts parts of your body to sleep by injecting
numbing medicine through a needle placed along the path of
nerves. This may be around the collarbone or neck, under the
arm, at the wrist, in the palm, around your finger, or through an
IV in your arm. As with local anesthesia, the anesthesiologist or
nurse anesthetist may add relaxing medication given through
an IV line.
The injection of numbing medicine with a needle can be slightly
uncomfortable or painful, but you will have IV medication to help
you relax and feel comfortable during the injection. Sometimes,
the anesthesiologist may use a needle connected to a nerve
stimulator to precisely locate the nerve. This causes the arm
or hand muscles to twitch and move, which is not painful,
although it can feel strange.
Some of the proven advantages of regional anesthesia include
less need for pain medicine after surgery, faster recovery from
anesthesia, less nausea, and, for some surgeries, less blood
loss and lower risk of blood clots.
Some patients prefer to be awake during surgery. Others
prefer to be asleep. During your surgery you can be awake or
asleep, depending on what you and the surgical team decide.
You will not be able to see the surgery itself because a large
sterile drape is placed between you and the surgeon. This is
to protect the "sterile field," the important area of your surgery,
from any contamination of germs that can cause infection.
Some risks associated with regional or local anesthesia include
pain, soreness or bruising at the needle site, or tingling that
lasts for several days. Serious complications can occur, such
as bleeding, infection or nerve injury, but these are very rare.
Your surgeon and anesthesia provider will check to make sure
you are comfortable before, during and after the procedure. Do
not hesitate to tell them if you are not.