Conference Coverage

Ropivacaine called top anesthesia for nail surgery



– Ropivacaine has a fast onset of action, longer duration than either lidocaine or bupivacaine, and it’s the only one of the three that’s inherently vasoconstrictive. For Brienne Cressey, MD, those features make ropivacaine the local anesthetic of choice in performing nail surgery.

“Local anesthesia is really key for nail surgery. If you don’t have good anesthesia it’s not a good experience for either the surgeon or the patient,” she observed at the annual meeting of the American College of Mohs Surgery.

Dr. Brienne Cressey of Rhode Island, dermatologist Bruce Jancin/MDedge News

Dr. Brienne Cressey

However, when she asked for a show of hands at the outset of her talk on nail surgery pearls before a packed hall filled with Mohs surgeons, lidocaine (Xylocaine) was far and away the audience’s number-one choice for local anesthesia in nail surgery, followed by bupivacaine (Marcaine) in a distant second. Only a handful of surgeons favored ropivacaine (Naropin). So Dr. Cressey set about convincing the crowd as to why ropivacaine is worthy of serious consideration. She also explained how she employs the local anesthetic in performing a distal digital block, a procedure not widely used in dermatology, but one she prefers for nail surgery.

Lidocaine has a fast onset – less than 1 minute – but a problematic short duration of 30-120 minutes. Bupivacaine has the disadvantage of a slow onset of up to 5 minutes, albeit with a longer duration of anesthesia at 2-4 hours. Ropivacaine has a fast onset, plus a duration of up to 8 hours. And unlike lidocaine and bupivacaine, which are vasodilatory, ropivacaine is vasoconstrictive.

“With lidocaine, you get a lot of blood right after you take off your tourniquet. With ropivacaine, you get really nice reperfusion, but it’s not too much. You take off the tourniquet, check to see you’ve got reperfusion, then you add a little ropivacaine – about 0.5 mL – on either side of the base of the distal phalanx. It stops the bleeding immediately and you can easily put on a pressure dressing. It’s a nice way to get the patient over the hump of those first hours of pain and lets them drive home in comfort,” explained Dr. Cressey, a dermatologist working in a group practice at Dermatology Professionals in East Greenwich, R.I.

Ropivacaine is less cardiotoxic than bupivacaine. And ropivacaine offers an additional advantage: Its pH is such that no buffering is necessary. “Ropivacaine doesn’t require any compounding. You can just use it at 1% straight out of the bottle. That’s what we do in our office, and we’ve had very good experience with it,” according to the dermatologist.

Achieving smooth sailing with local anesthesia

Dr. Cressey delivers ropivacaine slowly through a 30-gauge needle, which makes for a smaller, less painful puncture. She utilizes a topical cold spray, and places a vibrating machine as a distractant proximal to where she is injecting. She keeps the anesthetic at room temperature or warms it to body temperature in a water bath as another means of reducing the pain of injection.


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