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Looking after your arm, hand or leg after a peripheral nerve block

What is a peripheral nerve block?

As part of your child’s general anaesthetic, your child may be offered a peripheral nerve block.

Local anaesthetic (numbing medicine) is placed near to a nerve or a group of nerves to numb the area where your child is having their operation.

Peripheral nerve blocks can provide a safe and effective form of pain relief both during and after your child’s operation.

It is important to protect your child’s limb after the operation because it may stay numb and weak for up to 24 hours. Your child may be able to go home before the local anaesthetic block has worn off.

How do I look after my child’s limb?

  • Protect and support your child’s arm in a sling until the numbness wears off.
  • Give your child simple painkillers regularly as instructed, even if they are comfortable. When the block wears off, they can quickly become uncomfortable if they have not taken any painkillers. Once the block has worn off, your child may need additional painkillers. This will be discussed before the operation by your child’s anaesthetist.
  • Be careful with hot food and drinks.
  • Be careful around those who may not understand that your child cannot feel their limb, for example young children or pets as they may accidentally damage it
Do not
  • Allow your child to rest their limb on anything hot, for example hot water bottles, hot baths or radiators. They will not feel that it is hot and may cause a burn.
  • Allow your child to lift anything with their numb arm or walk on their numb leg. Their arm or leg will not be as strong as normal whilst it is numb and also have less control.
  • Allow your child to sleep lying on top of their numb limb. If possible, rest it on a pillow.
  • Allow your child’s arm or leg to be in a place where it might get accidentally injured.
  • Young people should not attempt to drive or operate machinery.

As your child’s block wears off, it is common to feel tingling or “pins and needles” in their fingers or toes. This is normal. Local anaesthetic blocks are quite safe and complications are rare. Please see the peripheral nerve block and infusion resource for more details.

If you are worried, please contact the ward where your child was cared for. The ward can take your details and a member of the anaesthetic team can contact you to discuss your concerns. You may need to return to the hospital for further assessment and care.

You should contact the ward if you notice any of the following:

  • unexplained shortness of breath
  • numbness that lasts for more than 48 hours
  • swelling of your child’s fingers or toes
  • any abnormal colour change of your child’s hand or foot
  • pain that will not go away with your child’s painkiller medication

Hearing about experience of our services is very important as it mean we can pass compliments to our staff and make improvements where necessary.

Please note that Sheffield Children’s accepts no responsibility for the loss of or damage to personal property of any kind, including money, in whatever way the loss or damage may occur with the exception of property deposited for safe keeping in accordance with the Patients Property Policy. We strongly advise patients, or their next of kin in the case of those patients incapable of managing their own affairs, not to bring valuables with them into the hospital.

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

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