Australian doctors have pioneered a new technique through which all major operations like amputations and surgery in obese patients can be performed without using general anaesthesia.
The new technique helps anaesthetists to numb body parts with pinpoint precision by using ultrasound machines to locate nerves.
The ultrasound allows the anaesthetists to use a "regional" injection for surgery of the limbs, hands and feet by targeting the exact position of the nerve.
Conventional procedures enabled the anaesthetists to inject the drug close to the nerve with the naked eye and if miscalculated it could lead to a punctured nerve.
While general anaesthesia increases the risk of complications in obese patients, traditional regional injections are problematic as nerves are hard to find beneath excess fat.
Dr Michael Barrington from St Vincent's Hospital called the new technique as a "turning point" in anaesthesia.
"Throughout Australia anaesthetists are using general anaesthesia because they are not confident in delivering regional anaesthesia effectively," Theage.com.au quoted him as saying.
"Now, for the first time we're able to image the nerves and deliver the local anaesthetic in a more precise and safe way," he added.
Experts believe that the method can reduce the need for general anaesthesia in up to 40 pct of patients.
According to Dr Barrington, the method has been used on about 1 pct Australians till now.
He said that the technology improved pain control and reduced side effects such as drowsiness, vomiting and nausea.
"There's a lot of pressure on hospitals to have a high throughput of patients — this will allow us to improve the rate of recovery and hopefully more patients will be discharged on the day of surgery," he said.