Local anesthesia is any technique to induce the absence of sensation in a specific part of the body, generally for the aim of inducing local analgesia, that is, local insensitivity to pain, although other local senses may be affected as well. It allows patients to undergo surgical and dental procedures with reduced pain and distress. In many situations, such as cesarean section, it is safer and therefore superior to general anesthesia. It is also used for relief of non-surgical pain and to enable diagnosis of the cause of some chronic pain conditions. Anesthetists sometimes combine both general and local anesthesia techniques.
The following terms are often used interchangeably:
Local anesthesia, in a strict sense, is anesthesia of a small part of the body such as a tooth or an area of skin.
Regional anesthesia is aimed at anesthetizing a larger part of the body such as a leg or arm.
Conduction anesthesia encompasses a great variety of local and regional anesthetic techniques.
A local anesthetic is a drug that causes reversible local anesthesia and a loss of nociception. When it is used on specific nerve pathways (nerve block), effects such as analgesia (loss of pain sensation) and paralysis (loss of muscle power) can be achieved. Clinical local anesthetics belong to one of two classes: aminoamide and aminoester local anesthetics. Synthetic local anesthetics are structurally related to cocaine. They differ from cocaine mainly in that they have no abuse potential and do not act on the sympathoadrenergic system, i.e. they do not produce hypertension or local vasoconstriction, with the exception of Ropivacaine and Mepivacaine that do produce weak vasoconstriction. Unlike other forms of anesthesia, a local can be used for a minor procedure in a surgeon’s office as it does not put you into a state of unconsciousness. However, the physician should have a sterile environment available before doing a procedure in their office.
Local anesthetics vary in their pharmacological properties and they are used in various techniques of local anesthesia such as:
Topical anesthesia (surface) - Similar to topical gel numbing before getting injected with Lidocaine.
^Rasche D, Ruppolt M, Stippich C, Unterberg A, Tronnier VM (2006). "Motor cortex stimulation for long-term relief of chronic neuropathic pain: a 10 year experience". Pain. 121 (1–2): 43–52. doi:10.1016/j.pain.2005.12.006. PMID16480828.