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
4.9 out of 5 stars 116 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
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.1 out of 5 stars 29 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
4.9 out of 5 stars 109 reviews

Anesthesia differences

Local and regional anesthesia are similar, but the difference is the depth at which your sensation is blocked and the area that's targeted. 

Jerome Edelstein, MD
Toronto Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 179 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.