Local Anesthesia

Today, many types of surgery can be safely and painlessly performed while you are awake. Local anesthesia, also called local anesthetic, is usually a one-time injection of medicine that numbs a small area of the body. It is used for procedures such as performing a skin biopsy or breast biopsy, repairing a broken bone, or stitching a deep cut. You will be awake and alert, and you may feel some pressure, but you won’t feel pain in the area being treated.

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When is local anesthesia used?

Local anesthetics have made it possible to perform many surgical procedures quickly, with less preparation and a shorter recovery time. General anesthesia and anesthesia that sedates you can cause side effects such as nausea, and an anesthesiologist, a medical doctor, must monitor you if you are administered these types of anesthesia — during the procedure and for a time afterward. However, with local anesthesia, side effects and complications are rare and usually minor. For example, you may experience some soreness where the medication was injected. In rare cases, you could have an allergic reaction to the anesthetic.

With local anesthesia, side effects and complications are rare and usually minor.

There are some procedures that can’t be performed without general anesthesia or sedation. Other procedures may require an anesthetic that numbs a larger part of the body, such as from the waist down. This is called regional anesthesia and is used for procedures such as a cesarean delivery, also called a C-section.

But for many procedures, your doctor will recommend a local anesthetic. For others, you may have a choice. If you prefer not to be sedated, ask your surgeon or the anesthesiologist if your procedure can be performed safely and comfortably with local anesthesia. Not only will you recover and get home faster, but the procedure may be less expensive.

Sometimes local anesthesia is combined with sedation.