A nerve block is a common procedure done in addition to a surgery. Sometimes these are also done to help prevent or lessen pain caused by an injury. What a nerve block does is target a group of nerves, commonly known as a plexus, which relays pain to another part of the body. The nerve block itself numbs that group of nerves to prevent the signal from going forward. This stop pain signals from reaching the spinal cord and the brain.
For instance, if a patient is having arm, elbow, or hand surgery, a nerve block can be done in the area between the neck and the shoulder where a group of nerves, known as the brachial plexus, meet in a narrow and small spot. An anesthesiologist can guide a needle into this spot and inject the numbing medication to stop the signals from transferring from the surgery site in the arm, elbow, or hand up to the spinal cord and brain.
These types of nerve blocks can be performed in other areas too, such as the face, jaw, neck, back, shoulder, upper neck, abdomen, and pelvis. They are very common and generally considered to be good patient care.
However they can also be very dangerous.
The reason is because the injection needs to be in the same compartment and area of the large group of nerves. Meaning you will end up with a needle just millimeters away from a bundle of nerves. The close proximity can obviously lead to touch, which can lead to injury.
An injury to a nerve, especially a bundle of nerves, can not always be fixed. Many times these types of nerve injuries are permanent. They can shut off senators for pain reception, pressure, hot and cold, and they can also affect motor nerves which help move muscles or tendons. These are very important.
Most nerve blocks are done with an electronic stimulation. This is a device which goes on the needle and will cause the muscles and tendons effected by the targeted nerves to move or twitch. When the doctor sees those muscles or tendons begin to twitch, the doctor knows he or she is close enough to begin the injection. However, this also means that the doctor is very close to the nerves. If he or she pushes too far, it can cause a severe nerve injury. This is medical malpractice and a very serious case of it.
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