Topical Lidocaine-Prilocaine Cream (EMLA) for Thoracostomy Tube Removal

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We prospectively studied topical lidocaine-prilocaine cream (EMLA) versus IV morphine in a double-blinded, randomized fashion for pain relief during thoracostomy tube (chest tube; CT) removal. Adult patients who had undergone thoracotomy or median sternotomy were randomized to receive either EMLA cream over CT sites transdermally for 3 h or IV morphine 0.5 h before CT removal. Pain behavior was observed and rated before, during, and after CT removal. Pain behavior increased less in the topical EMLA group (mean +/- SE, 4.4 +/- 0.39) compared with the IV morphine group (6.0 +/- 0.38; P < 0.01). No signs of infection were noted at the CT sites 24 or 48 h after CT removal. We conclude that EMLA cream is more effective than IV morphine in preventing the pain associated with CT removal. Implications: Postoperatively applying a topical anesthetic cream onto chest tube sites of chest surgery patients 3 h before chest tube removal is more effective than IV morphine in blunting pain response.

(Anesth Analg 1999;88:1107-8)

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