Local anesthesia is a type of pain prevention used during minor procedures to numb a small site where the pain is likely to occur without changing the patient's awareness.
You are likely familiar with local anesthetics being used for dental procedures and for numbing an area that needs to be stitched.
Why Local Anesthesia Is Used
Unlike general anesthesia where the entire body is paralyzed and the patient is unconscious, local anesthesia allows the patient to remain awake and alert during a procedure.
It involves only a small area, whereas regional anesthesia is used for a whole arm or leg, for example.
This type of anesthesia is typically used for minor procedures that can be completed in a short time and the patient is expected to return home the same day. It also is used when the muscles don't need to be relaxed.
► See also: DENTAL ANESTHESIA : Mandibular Anesthesia : Gow-Gates technique
How Local Anesthesia is Given
During the administration of local anesthesia, a numbing medication is either applied to the skin as a cream or spray or injected into the area where the procedure will be performed.
If the medication is injected, this is sometimes done with several small injections. A few minutes after the injections have been given the area should be completely numb.
If the area still has sensation, additional injections or applications may be given to ensure total numbness.
By Jennifer Whitlock, RN, MSN, FN