Local Anesthetic Systemic Toxicity: A Narrative Literature Review and Clinical Update on Prevention, Diagnosis, and Management

Marina Gitman, Michael R. Fettiplace, Guy L. Weinberg, Joseph M. Neal, Michael J. Barrington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Background: The objective of this narrative review of local anesthetic systemic toxicity is to provide an update on its prevention, diagnosis, and management. Methods: The authors used a MEDLINE search of human studies, animal studies, and case reports and summarize findings following the American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine practice advisories on local anesthetic systemic toxicity. Results: Between March of 2014 and November of 2016, there were 47 cases of systemic toxicity described. Twenty-two patients (47 percent) were treated with intravenous lipid emulsion and two patients (4.3 percent) died. Seizures were the most common presentation. The spectrum of presenting neurologic and cardiovascular symptoms and signs are broad and can be obscured by perioperative processes. Local anesthetic type, dosage, and volume; site of injection; and patient comorbidities influence the rate of absorption from the site of injection and biodegradation of local anesthetics. Consider discussing appropriate dosages as a component of the surgical "time-out." A large-volume depot of dilute local anesthetic can take hours before reaching peak plasma levels. Oxygenation, ventilation, and advanced cardiac life support are the first priorities in treatment. Lipid emulsion therapy should be given at the first sign of serious systemic toxicity with an initial bolus dose of 100 ml for adults weighing greater than 70 kg and 1.5 ml/kg for adults weighing less than 70 kg or for children. Conclusion: All physicians who administer local anesthetics should be educated regarding the nature of systemic toxicity and contemporary management algorithms that include lipid emulsion therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)783-795
Number of pages13
JournalPlastic and reconstructive surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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