A continuous catheter nerve block provides analgesia, or the inability to feel pain, to a specific area following surgery. It is also called a continuous peripheral nerve block.
For the procedure a catheter (threadlike soft plastic tube) is placed in the region of the affective nerve by percutaneous insertion (using a small needle). The catheter is known as a perineural catheter and is placed just prior to the surgical procedure so that it can deliver constant anesthesia for post-operative pain relief. For most patients, just a local anesthetic is used to numb the site where the catheter will be inserted, although patients can choose to be sedated if necessary. The doctor will insert a needle into the skin using ultrasound imaging as a guide.
A continuous catheter nerve block optimizes sensory blocking while minimizing motor blocking, so the patient feels reduced pain but does not get as impaired otherwise. This serves to also minimize the prescription of opioid medications, which come with significant risk of addiction to the patient. The catheter is an ideal alternative to opioids as patients are able to continue to use it for pain as long as necessary.