RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL
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Digital versus local anesthesia for finger lacerations: a randomized controlled trial.

OBJECTIVES: To compare the pain of needle insertion, anesthesia, and suturing in finger lacerations after local anesthesia with prior topical anesthesia with that experienced after digital anesthesia.

METHODS: This was a randomized controlled trial in a university-based emergency department (ED), with an annual census of 75,000 patient visits. ED patients aged > or = 8 years with finger lacerations were enrolled. After standard wound preparation and 15-minute topical application of lidocaine-epinephrine-tetracaine (LET) in all wounds, lacerations were randomized to anesthesia with either local or digital infiltration of 1% lidocaine. Pain of needle insertion, anesthetic infiltration, and suturing were recorded on a validated 100-mm visual analog scale (VAS) from 0 (none) to 100 (worst); also recorded were percentage of wounds requiring rescue anesthesia; time until anesthesia; percentage of wounds with infection or numbness at day 7. Outcomes were compared by using Mann-Whitney U and chi-square tests. A sample of 52 patients had 80% power to detect a 15-mm difference in pain scores.

RESULTS: Fifty-five patients were randomized to digital (n = 28) or local (n = 27) anesthesia. Mean age (+/-SD) was 38.1 (+/-16.8) years, 29% were female. Mean (+/-SD) laceration length and width were 1.7 (+/-0.7) cm and 2.0 (+/-1.0) mm, respectively. Groups were similar in baseline patient and wound characteristics. There were no between-group differences in pain of needle insertion (mean difference, 1.3 mm; 95% confidence interval [CI] = -17.0 to 14.3 mm); anesthetic infiltration (mean difference, 2.3 mm; 95% CI = -19.7 to 4.4 mm), or suturing (mean difference, 7.6 mm; 95% CI = -3.3 to 21.1 mm). Only one patient in the digital anesthesia group required rescue anesthesia. There were no wound infections or persistent numbness in either group.

CONCLUSIONS: Digital and local anesthesia of finger lacerations with prior application of LET to all wounds results in similar pain of needle insertion, anesthetic infiltration, and pain of suturing.

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