Epinephrine-supplemented local anesthetics for ear and nose surgery: clinical use without complications in more than 10,000 surgical procedures

Hans-Martin Häfner, Manfred Röcken, Helmut Breuninger
Journal der Deutschen Dermatologischen Gesellschaft: JDDG 2005, 3 (3): 195-9

INTRODUCTION: Local anesthetics supplemented with epinephrine are generally regarded as contraindicated for surgical procedures involving the fingers, toes, penis, outer ear and the tip of the nose [1], but epinephrine is essential if automated tumescence local anesthesia (Auto-TLA) is used.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Infiltration anesthesia supplemented with 1:200,000 epinephrine was used from 1985-1997 in our department, while Auto-TLA supplemented with 1:1.000,000 epinephrine was introduced in 1997 for all surgical procedures involving the ear or nose. During this period, 10,201 patients underwent surgery at these locations. In addition, dermal blood flow was analyzed by acral photoplethysmography (APPG) and laser Doppler flowmetry (LDF) in the right ear lobe of five normal volunteers and during epinephrine supplemented Auto-TLA.

RESULTS: Epinephrine-induced complications were not observed in a single patient. Cosmetic skin flap surgery was performed in 4,953 of these patients. Even in patients with extended surgical procedures that took up to one to two hours and that included extensive skin flaps or skin grafts, we observed no increase in complications when compared to procedures performed either under general anesthesia or local anesthesia without epinephrine supplementation. Measuring blood perfusion of the earlobe showed a 69% reduction of LDF and a 42% reduction of arterial inflow (APPG) immediately following anesthesia.

CONCLUSION: Epinephrine supplementation of local anesthetics does not block blood perfusion in the ear and did not induce organ, tissue or flap necrosis. Local anesthesia with epinephrine supplementation is therefore safe for acral areas such as the ear or nose. Despite the relatively small influence on blood perfusion, epinephrine supplementation results in a relatively bloodless operating field and longer effectiveness of local anesthesia. The relative absence of blood in the operating field of the ear and nose significantly reduces the duration of surgery and increases the healing rate, as less electrocautery is needed.

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