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The Public's Fears About and Perceptions of Regional Anesthesia
  1. Peter W. Matthey, M.B.,, F.F.A.R.C.S.I.,
  2. Barry A. Finegan, M.B.,, F.R.C.P.C. and
  3. Brendan T. Finucane, M.B.,, F.R.C.P.C.
  1. From the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, Walter C Mackenzie Health Sciences Centre, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada
  1. Reprint requests: Peter W Matthey, M.B., F.F.A.R.C.S.I., Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, 3B2.32 Walter C Mackenzie Health Sciences Centre, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada T6G 2B7. E-mail: pmatthey{at}


Background and Objectives The public is not well informed about matters relating to regional anesthesia. Previous studies concerning regional anesthesia have involved patients, surgeons, and anesthesiologists. This study is the first in-depth survey of the attitudes of the general public toward a number of commonly perceived fears about regional anesthesia.

Methods A province-wide telephone survey was conducted in Alberta, Canada. The sample surveyed was representative of the adult population of the province and included an equal balance of urban and rural participants. General and regional anesthesia were defined, a scenario involving major knee surgery was described, and participants were asked to choose between regional and general anesthesia. Respondents were then questioned so their attitudes toward commonly perceived fears associated with regional anesthesia could be assessed.

Results A total of 1,216 people were surveyed. A preference for regional or general anesthesia was not expressed in this scenario. Approximately 27% of respondents were very concerned about permanent paralysis, back injury, perioperative pain, seeing the surgical procedure, and the prospect of a needle in the back. Only 6% of individuals were concerned about headaches.

Conclusions The public's fears and conceptions about regional anesthesia are greatly distorted. The anesthesia community has not been successful in keeping the public informed about regional anesthesia. Future anesthesia-related educational programs should address the concerns of the public about anesthesia matters, particularly regional anesthesia.

  • Regional anesthesia
  • Fears
  • Complications
  • Public
  • Education

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  • Internally funded by the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, University of Alberta.

    Presented in part at the European Society of Regional Anesthesia, Madrid, Spain.