Howlocal anaesthetics are used

Local anaesthetics are usually given by dentists, surgeons, anaesthetists, GPsand other doctors. Some medications containing mild local anaesthetic are also available on prescription or over the counter from pharmacies.

Depending on what they're being used for, local anaestheticscan be given as injections, creams, gels, sprays or ointments.

Some of the main uses of local anaesthetics are outlined below.

Treating pain

Slightly painful conditions such as Mouth ulcers and sore throats can sometimes be treated with over-the-counter gels and sprays that contain a local anaesthetic.

Injections of a local anaesthetic and steroid medication may be used to treat more severe conditions, such as long-term joint pain .

Preventing pain during and after surgery

A local anaesthetic may beused along with a sedative medicationto keep you relaxed while an operation or procedure is carried out.

Local anaesthetics aremainly used forrelatively minor procedures, such as:

  • a filling or wisdom tooth removal
  • a minor skin operation, such as the removal of moles , warts and verrucas
  • some types of eye surgery, such as cataract removal
  • a biopsy where a sample of tissueis removed for closer examination under a microscope

A local anaesthetic may occasionally be used for more major surgery when it's important for you to be awake, such as during certain types of brain surgery, or to prevent pain after a major operation carried out under a general anaesthetic (see below).

Epidural and spinal anaesthetics

An epidural anaesthetic , often referred to as an epidural,is where a local anaesthetic is continually injected through a tube into an area of thelower back called the epidural space.

A spinal anaesthetic is a single injection into a similar space in the back.

Both types of anaesthetic can be used to numb large areas of the body by stopping pain signals travelling along the nerves in the spine.

They'reoften used during childbirth to ease the pain of labour, or if a caesarean section is needed.

They can also be used to reduce the amount of general anaesthesia needed during some operations and can provide pain relief afterwards. In some types of surgery, such as knee and hip replacements , they can be used in place of a general anaesthetic.

Peripheral nerve blocks

A nerve block is an injection of a local anaesthetic to numb the nerves supplying a particular part of the body, such as the hand, arm or leg.

It may beused so that an operation can be carried out withoutneeding a general anaesthetic, or to prevent pain afterwards.

An ultrasound scan is often used to pinpoint the correct nerve. The injectionshouldn't be painful and usually takes about 30 minutes to become fully effective.

When peripheral nerve blocks and epidural or spinal anaesthetics are used in place of general anaesthetics, they are often combined with sedation to make you feel drowsy and more relaxed.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 21 Dec 2018