Comparison of topical anesthetics and vasoconstrictors vs lubricants prior to nasogastric intubation: a randomized, controlled trial

Acad Emerg Med. 1999 Mar;6(3):184-90. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.1999.tb00153.x.


Objective: To determine whether pre-treatment of the nose and throat with topical anesthetics and vasoconstrictors would reduce the pain associated with nasogastric (NG) intubation.

Methods: This was a prospective, randomized, controlled trial assessing the pain of NG intubation in patients pretreated with topical anesthetics and vasoconstrictors vs surgical lubricants alone. The subjects were 40 alert, cooperative adult patients requiring NG intubation without allergies to the study medications or contraindications to their use from a suburban university-based ED. The patients in the experimental group had phenylephrine 0.5% sprayed in their noses followed by instillation of 5 mL of 2% lidocaine jelly. Their throats were sprayed with 2% tetracaine and 14% benzocaine. The control patients received intranasal lubrication only. The primary outcome measured was pain of NG intubation on a 100-mm visual analog scale. Other outcomes included nasal pain, discomfort from gagging, and the incidences of vomiting, choking, and epistaxis.

Results: The mean age (+/-SD) was 54.8+/-22.3 years; 20 (50%) were female. The patients who had a combination of topical anesthetics and vasoconstrictors inserted prior to NG intubation experienced significantly less overall pain/ discomfort than did the control patients [28.6 mm (95% CI = 17.3 to 39.9 mm) vs 57.5 mm (95% CI = 44.9 to 70.1 mm), p = 0.001]. The patients in the experimental group also experienced significantly less nasal pain than did the patients in the control group [18.1 mm (95% CI = 8.0 to 28.2 mm) vs 44.4 mm (95% CI = 30.4 to 58.6 mm), p = 0.003] and significantly less discomfort from gagging than the patients receiving pretreatment with a lubricant alone [24.1 mm (95% CI = 11.1 to 37.1 mm) vs 50.9 mm (95% CI = 36.7 to 65.1 mm), p = 0.006]. There was no between-group difference in the frequencies of adverse effects.

Conclusions: Use of topical lidocaine and phenylephrine for the nose and tetracaine with benzocaine spray for the throat prior to NG intubation results in significantly less pain and discomfort than use of a nasal surgical lubricant alone. Widespread use of topical anesthetics and vasoconstrictors prior to NG intubation is recommended.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Anesthetics, Local / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intubation, Gastrointestinal / adverse effects
  • Intubation, Gastrointestinal / methods*
  • Lubrication*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / prevention & control*
  • Phenylephrine / therapeutic use
  • Prospective Studies
  • Vasoconstrictor Agents / therapeutic use


  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Vasoconstrictor Agents
  • Phenylephrine