Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Peripheral nerve block (upper limb)

2-minute read

This page will give you information about a peripheral nerve block to your arm (upper limb). If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.

You can also download and print a PDF version of this factsheet, with space for your own questions or notes.

What is a peripheral nerve block?

A peripheral nerve block is a type of regional anaesthetic that involves injecting local anaesthetics and other painkiller near the major nerves to your arm. A nerve block works by temporarily numbing your nerves to give pain relief.

A nerve block for your arm can be used on its own while you are awake, with sedation, or with a general anaesthetic.

Illustration showing a peripheral nerve block.
A peripheral nerve block.

A nerve block can be used instead of a general anaesthetic for the operation, and is also an effective form of pain relief afterwards.

Depending on the operation, the injection may be given in the side of your neck, or near your collarbone or armpit, or in your elbow, forearm or wrist.

What does the procedure involve?

Your anaesthetist will usually use an ultrasound scanner and nerve stimulator to help guide them where to inject the anaesthetic.

Your anaesthetist will insert the needle and when they are certain that it is in the right position they will inject anaesthetic through it. Sometimes your anaesthetist may insert a small tube through the needle before they remove it, leaving the tube in place so they can inject more anaesthetic.

What complications can happen?

  • change in your breathing
  • failure of the nerve block
  • allergic reaction
  • bleeding
  • nerve damage
  • local anaesthetic toxicity
  • pneumothorax
  • droopy eyelid on the side of the block
  • developing a hoarse voice

Summary

A peripheral upper limb nerve block can be used for most people, usually giving a safe and effective form of pain relief both during and after the operation.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION
The operation and treatment information on this page is published under license by Healthdirect Australia from EIDO Healthcare Australia and is protected by copyright laws. Other than for your personal, non-commercial use, you may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

For more on how this information was prepared, click here.

Last reviewed: September 2018

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Nerve Blocks (Regional Anaesthesia) | myVMC

Medical information about nerve blocks regional anaesthesia for treatment of pain

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo