Topical anesthetics in children: agents and techniques that equally comfort patients, parents, and clinicians

Curr Opin Pediatr. 2001 Aug;13(4):324-30. doi: 10.1097/00008480-200108000-00007.


Topical anesthetics are increasingly important, as the number of outpatient surgeries for dermatologic problems in infants and children is steadily growing. This noninvasive modality of anesthetic delivery in conjunction with a reassuring environment may minimize the discomfort of otherwise painful procedures. Since the 1880s, when cocaine was first used as a topical ophthalmologic anesthetic, many ester-and amide-based local anesthetics have been developed for a variety of simple and complex procedures. The pediatric dermatologist's arsenal of topical anesthetic preparations is increasing with the development of novel vehicles of transdermal delivery and the use of anesthetics in combination. Eutectic mixture of local anesthetics is currently the most frequently prescribed topical agent, though the use of ELA-max, another lidocaine-containing preparation, is gaining momentum, especially in the neonatal population. Amethocaine, tetracaine, iontophoresis, and the S-caine patch, a product on the horizon for use in the pediatric population, also are included in this discussion.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Anesthetics, Local / adverse effects
  • Anesthetics, Local / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Drug Combinations
  • Humans
  • Iontophoresis
  • Lidocaine / adverse effects
  • Lidocaine / therapeutic use
  • Lidocaine, Prilocaine Drug Combination
  • Ointments
  • Prilocaine / adverse effects
  • Prilocaine / therapeutic use
  • Skin Diseases / surgery*
  • Tetracaine / therapeutic use


  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Drug Combinations
  • Lidocaine, Prilocaine Drug Combination
  • Ointments
  • Prilocaine
  • Tetracaine
  • Lidocaine