The brachial plexus is a group of nerves that extend from the spine to the shoulders, arms, and hands. Damage to the brachial plexus often comes from injuring the shoulder, but it could also be because of inflammation from an underlying condition around the nerves. Patients may feel a tingling feeling going down their arm and may experience weakness. In severe cases, patients may feel pain as well. This is because the nerves are damaged, stretched, or compressed and are sending different signals to the brain.
A brachial plexus block can be used diagnostically. This means that if the patient feels relief after a brachial plexus block, physicians can conclusively determine that the source of the pain is coming from the brachial plexus area.
Additionally, physicians may perform brachial plexus blocks to prepare patients for surgery. The injection acts as an anesthetic that prevents the nerves from being active and firing signals to the brain.
What to Expect
There are several different ways physicians can perform a brachial plexus block, but the different techniques only vary based what approach the physician takes. For example, during an interscalene approach, blocks are injected into the neck while an axillary block goes into the underside of the upper arm. The anesthesiologist will determine the best approach for your procedure. He or she will cleanse the area and administer an injection to make you numb. Then, the anesthesiologist administers the brachial plexus block. Patients do not normally feel pain during the block because the numbness prevents patients from feeling the needle go in, although they may feel a pushing sensation instead.
After Your Procedure
Patients should not expect to feel a lot of pain after the procedure because anesthetic is used prior to the nerve block. Once the anesthetic wears off, the arm may feel a little sore or numb, but this should wear off within a few days. We recommend taking over the counter pain medication if patients are uncomfortable, but the physician may prescribe a higher dose pain medicine following the surgery for excessive pain.