The Benefits of Local Anesthesia: A Changing Trend

Alex Campos

Team angelMD


Since the introduction of anesthesiology, the traditional role of the patient has been to be asleep, however patients’ increasing unfamiliarity with current medical procedures and devices has led some to rebel against the surgeon-recommended general anesthesia in favor of local anesthetic use. As David S. Howes, a Chicago emergency physician, stated in regards to patients being awake in the operating room, “It’s not for the faint of heart.” [1]

With the possible difficulties of local anesthesia in mind, benefits have also been found. A study conducted in Saint John, New Brunswick compared the anxiety levels of 200 patients who underwent carpal tunnel release surgery, half with local and half with general anesthesia. [2] The study found that patient anxiety levels dramatically decreased while under local anesthetic, as the patient could openly communicate with the surgeon during the operation. On a 0-10 scale, the average pre-operative levels of anxiety in patients with local anesthetic use was 2.3, lower than the average anxiety level of 3.4 found in patients with general anesthetic use. [2]

Local anesthesia has done much more than reduce a patient’s surgery anxiety there are economic, time saving, and functional benefits as well. Of the 100 patients in the Saint John study who were only given local anesthesia, the average total time spent at a hospital was 2.6 hours, 35 percent less time than the 100 patients who underwent general anesthesia. [2] Additionally, blood work, electrocardiogram, and chest X-ray use was found to be needed for three percent of wide awake patients, versus 48 percent of sedated patients. [2]

It was also found that patients under local anesthesia could go back to their daily routines much quicker than if they had undergone general anesthesia. In March of 2017, a patient named in Esther Voynow underwent a De Quervain’s release for restricted base of thumb tendons, opting for a local anesthetic. Due to the lack of common dizziness and nausea resulting from general anesthesia, Voynow was able to drive herself back home merely 30 minutes after her operation had ended. [1]

These results suggest that local anesthesia may become a more frequently used method of pain medication in the future. The economic, time-saving, and functional benefits of local anesthesia seem perfect to be taken to a national scale. If so, the medical industry would be able to save millions of dollars and thousands of surgical hours, resulting in an abundance of space in hospitals. This change would reduce costs and generate profits for hospitals while producing the optimal level of medical care for patients.

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[1] “Going Under The Knife, With Eyes and Ears Wide Open”

[2] “The patient’s perspective on carpal tunnel surgery related to the type of anesthesia: a prospective cohort study”

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