Tool of the Trade: Lidocaine
Posted by Clark Venable on 9/15/2007
Dr. Wes' post on the proper way to inject lidocaine got me to thinking about how I do it and I think I have some tips to share, too. I inject lidocaine in people's back while they're in labor, in their groins, necks, and arm pits when I do blocks, and of course in their hands and arms when I place IV's. (I inject it into their IV's, too, but there's no trick to that, really.)
When I have time, I like to add about a one fourth volume of bicarbonate to the lidocaine I'm injecting. (This doesn't work with bupivicaine as it will cause it to precipitate out.) I've testing this on myself, on nurses in labor, and in patients in labor and I am convinced this removes most of the burning sensation that comes with injecting lidocaine.
After having selected my injection site and cleaned it (with alcohol, betadine, chloraprep, duraprep, etc.) I wait for the prep to dry so that the prepping agent doesn't cause any stinging. I place a drop of lidocaine on the skin and insert the needle through the drop of lidocaine to make contact with the skin (after warning the patient, of course). This works, not because it numbs the skin under the drop (you need a eutectic mixture of local anesthetics for that) but because it caries some lidocaine in on the tip of the needle. I inject while inserting the needle intradermally. You should inject slowly, advance slowly, and see a skin wheal if it's truly an intradermal injection. This is easiest on horizontal surfaces but can also be done on a vertical surface like a back. In my opinion the wrong way to do inject lidocaine is the way tuberculin skin test are often placed: jab in the tiny needle (ouch!) inject the antigen quickly (ouch!).
When I watch trainees inject lidocaine I often see them stop to aspirate to make sure they're not in a blood vessel. This is unnecessary a) if you keep the tip of the needle moving and b) because the total dose of lidocaine in the 3cc syringe is not enough to cause toxicity even if injected intravascularly. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming...
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