About Peripheral Nerve Blocks

For total or partial knee replacements, the anesthesiologist will offer you a peripheral nerve block. A peripheral nerve block is a blockage of pain signals from a nerve to the brain, creating a numb area. This is accomplished by surrounding the nerve with a local anesthetic. For more information about this, see the FAQs tab below.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Peripheral Nerve Blocks

What are the benefits associated with a peripheral nerve block?

A peripheral nerve block provides superior pain relief to oral or intravenous pain medicines alone. We find that adding a peripheral nerve block to the oral or intravenous pain medicines allows people to participate in physical therapy better and that they need less of the morphine-type pain medicines. Since the morphine-type pain medicines can make you groggy, nauseated, constipated and itchy, we think needing less of them is better.

How is a peripheral nerve block performed?

The anesthesiologist will identify the nerve using ultrasound. Next they will clean off your skin with sterile solution. A small amount of local anesthetic is injected to numb the skin, and a needle is guided under ultrasound to a location near but not touching the nerve. The local anesthetic is then injected near the nerve.

How long will it take to get numb?

About 20 minutes

How long will the nerve be numb?

It is different for each individual. If a single injection of local anesthetic is performed, you will be numb for 8-12 hours. If a nerve catheter is placed, you will be numb for two days. For a total or partial knee replacement, a catheter is usually placed.

What's a nerve catheter?

A nerve catheter is a thin piece of flexible plastic tubing that is placed under the skin near the nerve. It is fastened to the skin with a bandage and connected to a plastic pump about the size of a baby bottle. The pump will inject local anesthetic for about two days.

How do I take care of a nerve catheter?

Just don’t pull the bandage off! When it’s time to remove the nerve catheter (you’ll know it’s time because the balloon inside the bottle will be empty), remove the bandage and the catheter. If the catheter doesn’t come out easily, come back to the hospital and we will remove it for you.

What are the side effects of a peripheral nerve block?

Your leg will be numb and weak. If you’re able to walk on your operative leg after surgery, you must be very careful to do so with help while the nerve block is in place. Please be aware of where your leg is at all times, as your leg could be injured without your knowledge (by stubbing your toe, for example).

What are the risks associated with a peripheral nerve block?

The three major risks of a nerve block are infection, bleeding and nerve damage. These are all extremely rare complications. However, if you already have numbness or tingling in your leg or foot, please let the anesthesiologist know. A nerve block may be more likely to cause nerve damage if you already have these symptoms.

A peripheral nerve block will not provide all of the pain relief needed in the first two days after your surgery, and sometimes the peripheral nerve block doesn’t work at all and has to be redone.

Do I still need to go to sleep for my surgery?

The peripheral nerve block does not provide enough pain relief to have surgery. You will need to either go to sleep (general anesthesia) or to have a spinal anesthetic, which will make you numb for about three hours from the chest to your feet.

Jill A. Erickson, PA-C

Patient Rating:


4.7 out of 5

Jill Erickson has worked with our Adult Reconstruction Surgeons since 1999, and with Christopher Peters, M.D. exclusively since 2003, with Joint Replacements as well as Hip Preservation procedures. She is an integral member of our University of Utah Center for Hip & Knee Reconstruction team and coordinates our research, surgical and clinical ou... Read More

Jeremy M. Gililland, M.D.

Patient Rating:


4.7 out of 5

Dr. Gililland specializes in adult reconstructive orthopedic surgery of the hip and knee. He performs routine and complex primary and revision joint replacement operations. Additionally, his focuses include partial knee replacement and direct anterior total hip arthroplasty. He considers himself very fortunate to have a profession that he is passi... Read More

Christopher E. Pelt, M.D.

Patient Rating:


4.8 out of 5

Dr. Pelt specializes in hip replacement and revision, and knee replacement and revision. Minimally invasive joint replacement, partial knee replacement (unicompartmental, patellofemoral), cruciate preserving knee replacement, and direct anterior hip replacement are all aspects of his practice. Dr. Pelt is an Assistant Professor in the Department o... Read More


Adult Reconstruction, Direct Anterior Hip Replacement, Hip Dysplasia, Hip Instability, Hip Replacement, Hip Revision, Joint Infection, Joint Replacement, Knee Replacement, Knee Revision, Labral Tear, Minimally Invasive Joint Surgery, Orthopaedic Surgery, Oxford Partial Knee Replacement, Patello-Femoral Arthroplasty (PFA), Uni-Compartmental Knee Arthroplasty, Unicompartmental Knee Replacement


University Orthopaedic Center (801) 587-7109

Christopher L. Peters, M.D.

Patient Rating:


4.6 out of 5

Dr. Chris Peters, Professor, specializes in adult reconstructive orthopaedic surgery of the hip and knee. He performs routine and complex joint replacements and bioregenerative hip preserving operations. One of his specialties includes the treatment of hip pain in young adults from acetabular dysplasia and/or femoro-acetabular impingement with pelv... Read More

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