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Transient neurologic symptoms (TNS) have been reported to occur after 16% to 40% of ambulatory lidocaine spinal anesthetics. Patient discomfort and the possibility of underlying lidocaine neurotoxicity have prompted a search for alternative local anesthetic agents. We compared the incidence of TNS with procaine or lidocaine spinal anesthesia in a 2:1 dose ratio.Seventy outpatients undergoing knee arthroscopy were blindly randomized to receive either 100 mg hyperbaric procaine or 50 mg hyperbaric lidocaine. An interview by a blinded investigator established the presence or absence of TNS, defined as pain in the buttocks or lower extremities beginning within 24 hours of surgery. Onset of sensory and motor block, patient discomfort, supplemental anesthetics, and side effects were recorded by the unblinded managing anesthesia team. Anesthetic adequacy was determined from these data by a single blinded investigator. Hospital discharge time was recorded from the patient record. Groups were compared using appropriate statistics with a P < .05 considered significant.TNS occurred in 6% of procaine patients versus 31% of lidocaine patients (P = .007). Sensory block with procaine and lidocaine was similar, while motor block was decreased with procaine (P < .05). A trend toward a higher rate of block inadequacy (17% v 3%, P = .11) and intraoperative nausea (17% v 3%, P = .11) occurred with procaine. Average hospital discharge time with procaine was increased by 29 minutes (P < .05).The incidence of TNS was substantially lower with procaine than with lidocaine. However, procaine resulted in a lower overall quality of anesthesia and a prolonged average discharge time. If the shortfalls of procaine as studied can be overcome, it may provide a suitable alternative to lidocaine for outpatient spinal anesthesia to minimize the risk of TNS.