Differential Blockade

Peripheral nerve functions are not affected equally by local anesthetics. Loss of sympathetic function usually is followed by loss of temperature sensation; sensation to pinprick, touch, and deep pressure; and last, motor function. This phenomenon is called differential blockade. Differential blockade is the result of a number of factors, including the size of the nerve, the presence and amount of myelin, and the location of particular fibers within a nerve bundle. For conduction to be effectively blocked, the local anesthetic must exert its effects over the distance between several nodes of Ranvier. Since the smallest nerves (C fibers) have no myelin, they can be most easily blocked; thus, sympathetic functions often are blocked soon after a local anesthetic is applied to a particular nerve bundle. Small myelinated nerves have correspondingly short distances between nodes of Ranvier and therefore are often blocked next. These nerves subserve temperature and sharp pain sensation. Larger nerves then become blocked, accounting for the loss of function up to and including motor innervation.

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