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Caring for your child after a peripheral nerve block fact sheet

Caring for your child after a peripheral nerve block

What is a nerve block?

A nerve block is an injection of local anaesthetic medication around the nerves that supply feeling and movement to a limb or body part.

What to expect when your child has had a nerve block?

Nerve blocks can provide good pain relief for four to 24 hours depending on the nerve involved and medications used. Nerve blocks will often cause temporary numbness and weakness to the body part.

What are the benefits of the nerve block?

  • Better pain relief after surgery.
  • Less need for stronger pain-relieving medications which may cause unpleasant side effects like constipation and sleepiness.
  • May allow your child to go home sooner.

What are the temporary side effects of the nerve block?

Side effects can vary depending on the nerves involved. The affected limb may feel:

  • Heavy, floppy and weak.
  • Difficult to sense its position.
  • Pins and needles and numbness.
  • Warm or cold.

Other things to keep in mind

  • If the arm or leg still has significant weakness or numbness at discharge it needs to be protected from harm or pressure as your child may not feel it.
  • Arms should be kept in a sling and legs kept elevated. Splints should not be applied too tightly. The affected limb should be moved cautiously until feeling and muscle strength returns to normal.
  • Extra care should be taken near hot surfaces such as heaters, hot water etc.
  • When the block wears off, your child may experience increased pain. It is important to start alternative pain relief medication before this occurs, particularly before going to bed.

How long will the nerve block last?

Pain relief can last from between 4 to 24 hours, the anaesthetist or surgeon can explain how long they estimate your child’s block to last for as this depends on the location and medication used.

What should I expect as the nerve block wears off?

The signs or symptoms that tell you this type of anaesthetic is wearing off may include:

  • Tingling, pins and needles. (These feelings are normal)
  • Increased feeling and movement of the affected part.
  • Discomfort or pain.

Is it safe for my child to go home?

Your child can go home if you understand what to look out for, have extra pain relief medications available and follow up has been arranged.

When to seek help?

If you have any concerns about the nerve block, if your child experiences significant pain that is unrelieved by the pain medication, or if there is ongoing weakness after 24 hours please contact the surgical team, your GP or nearest emergency department. Doctors from these areas can contact the hospital’s anaesthetic department.

Remember – It is important that your child start taking alternative pain relief medications BEFORE the block wears off.

Contact us

Anaesthesia and Pain Management
Queensland Children’s Hospital
501 Stanley Street, South Brisbane
t 07 3068 1111 (Switch board)

In an emergency, always call 000.

If it’s not an emergency but you have any concerns, contact 13 Health (13 43 2584). Qualified staff will give you advice on who to talk to and how quickly you should do it. You can phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Resource No: FS349. Developed by Anaesthesia and Pain Management department, Children’s Health Queensland. Updated: December 2019. All information contained in this sheet has been supplied by qualified professionals as a guideline for care only. Seek medical advice, as appropriate, for concerns regarding your child’s health.