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.
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.
Adverse effects depend on the local anesthetic method and site of administration discussed in depth in the local anesthetic sub-article, but overall, adverse effects can be:
- localized prolonged anesthesia or paresthesia due to infection, hematoma, excessive fluid pressure in a confined cavity, and severing of nerves & support tissue during injection.
- systemic reactions such as depressed CNS syndrome, allergic reaction, vasovagal episode, and cyanosis due to local anesthetic toxicity.
- lack of anesthetic effect due to infectious pus such as an abscess.
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