Aesthetics Of Regional Anesthesia: Deciding Which To Use During Knee Arthroscopy

Posted on: 24 December 2015

If you're about to undergo knee arthroscopy, you know you'll have a choice of anesthesias to choose from, mainly local, regional, and general. Your doctor may have a particular one that he or she prefers to use, but if you have a choice and you choose regional, you may have a further choice to make. There are different types of regional anesthesia that differ in how long the anesthetic is applied and where it is applied to. 

Peripheral Nerve Block (Sciatic, Femoral, or Both)

Doctors can numb just the leg that is being operated on. This is called a peripheral nerve block, and it can be applied to the sciatic nerve, the femoral nerve, or both. The one-legged effect means the other leg will be fine and not need recovery time. This makes it easier for you to regain your ability to move around, though due to the surgery, you'll still need an assistive device like crutches. A 2000 study published in Acta Anaesthesiologica Scandinavica found that combined sciatic-femoral peripheral blocks can take a bit longer to take effect when compared to another form of regional block, the spinal block, but the peripheral block was just as effective. If your doctor thinks your surgery won't take that long and won't be that involved, you may want to discuss this one-legged option.


The aforementioned spinal block is a fast-acting block that numbs the entire lower half of your body. It takes effect quickly, but you then have to wait for both your legs, as well as your hips, to recover. This can be a suitable block if you don't want to be fully unconscious like you would be with general anesthesia, but you don't want to feel anything at all around the leg undergoing the operation. It may also be suitable if the doctor is worried that you'll twitch and move your other leg, possibly interfering with the surgeons.


An epidural block is similar to a spinal block in that it numbs the lower half of your body, including both legs. However, an epidural is an ongoing block in which anesthesia is delivered continuously, rather than in one dose. This may be suitable for longer surgeries. There is a form of spinal block in which anesthesia is delivered continuously, too, but this is a post-operative delivery from a catheter.

You should definitely discuss your anesthesia options with a local doctor, such as one from, to find out the best one for you. Keep recovery time and the length of the surgery in mind, as well as your comfort level with having or not having any feeling below the waist.