Optimal Time Delay between Epinephrine Injection and Incision to Minimize Bleeding
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BACKGROUND: The time until maximal cutaneous vasoconstriction after injection of lidocaine with epinephrine is often given in textbooks and multiple choice examinations as 7 to 10 minutes. However, in our experience, there is significantly less cutaneous bleeding if one waits considerably longer than 7 to 10 minutes after injection of local anesthesia with epinephrine for most procedures on human skin. METHODS: This was a prospective, randomized, triple-blind study where 12 volunteers were injected simultaneously in each arm with either 1% lidocaine with epinephrine (study group) or 1% plain lidocaine (control group), after which the relative hemoglobin concentration of the underlying skin and soft tissues was measured over time using spectroscopy. RESULTS: In the epinephrine group, the mean time at which the lowest cutaneous hemoglobin level was obtained was 25.9 minutes (95 percent CI, 25.9 ± 5.1 minutes). This was significantly longer than the historical literature values of 7 to 10 minutes for maximum vasoconstriction after injection. Mean hemoglobin index values at every time measurement after postinjection minute 1 were significantly different between the study group and the control group, with use of a two-tailed paired t test (p < 0.01). CONCLUSIONS: If optimal visualization is desired, the ideal time for the surgeon to begin the incision should be 25 minutes after injection of local anesthetic with epinephrine. It takes considerably longer than 7 to 10 minutes for a new local equilibrium to be obtained in relation to hemoglobin quantity.
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