Difference Between Local and Regional Anesthesia?

What is the difference between local anesthesia with sedation and regional anesthesia, a thoracic block?

Doctor Answers (4)

Difference Between local and Regional Anesthesia


Both local and regional anesthesia involve injection of medication that blocks trhe body's pain response temporarily. A regional block is directed at the trunk of a nerve (think of it like the trunk of a tree) and affects all the branches of the nerve that comes from that trunk.  Local anesthesia is injected in the area and blocks only where injected, not father down the branches of the nerve.  The patient is awake for these types of anesthesia unless some form of sedation is added.  Some parts of the body are good for regional blocks and others are more difficult to anesthetize with either local or regional.  The decision on which type of anesthesia to use is based on many variables.  Discuss with your surgeon which is best for you.

Seattle Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 93 reviews

Local vs regional anesthesia


Usually local refers to direct injection into an area that is being immediately treated by cutting into the tissue. A regional block uses anesthetic to directly anesthetize defined nerves that innervate a given area.  Th is can be an axillary block to anesthetize the entire arm as opposed to a local block of say a portion of the wrist that requires surgery.

Steven Wallach, MD
Manhattan Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 17 reviews

Difference Between Local and Regional Anesthesia?


Relief of the pain which would otherwise accompany surgical procedures can be accomplished in many ways. As you pointed out, it is often described by the way sensation is impaired to allow the conduct of the operation. In a LOCAL anesthesia case, the surgeon would infiltrate the skin in the area of surgery with one of several agents (Lidocaine, Marcaine etc) medications which block nerve signals through that area making the operation painless. This is the least risky mode of anesthesia. In REGIONAL anesthesia the nerve cables which bring in sensation from a large area containing the area of surgery are blocked (such as spinal, epidural, Bier block). This can also be supplemented by adding in intravenous sedation.

Usally the more extensive the operation, the more sophisticated are ther anesthesia requirements.


Peter A. Aldea, MD
Memphis Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 62 reviews

Anesthesia differences

The primary differences between local and regional anesthesia is the depth at which sensation is blocked and the area targeted. Local anesthesia numbs a smaller area of the body at a shallow depth. It is usually administered by injection. For example, injectable fillers (like Juvederm) are combined with the local anesthetic lidocaine to reduce discomfort during treatment.

Regional anesthesia involves blocking sensation in only one area of your body. You will be fully conscious but unable to feel anything in the treated area. If you’ve ever had an epidural, commonly administered during childbirth, then you are familiar with regional anesthesia.

Jerome Edelstein, MD
Toronto Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 63 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.