Application of topical local anesthetic at triage reduces treatment time for children with lacerations: a randomized controlled trial

Ann Emerg Med. 2003 Jul;42(1):34-40. doi: 10.1067/mem.2003.207.


Study objectives: We determine whether application of topical local anesthetic at triage reduces total treatment time for children with simple lacerations.

Methods: This prospective, randomized, double-blind, controlled trial was conducted in an urban pediatric emergency department (ED). Participants were children who were aged 1 to 10 years and had simple lacerations. Exclusions were wounds to digits, ears, penis, nose, or mucous membranes; wounds close to the eye; deep wounds involving bone, cartilage, tendon, or vessels; wounds older than 6 hours; allergy or previous reaction to local anesthetics; trivial wounds unlikely to require any intervention; previous anesthesia to area before presentation; and failure to obtain consent. Participants were randomized to application of adrenaline 1:1,000, lignocaine (lidocaine) 4%, and amethocaine 0.5% (ALA) or placebo (adrenaline 1:1,000 solution) at triage. The primary outcome measure was total treatment time (triage time to discharge time). Secondary outcomes were the proportion of children from each group who required sedation and subgroup analysis by mode of wound closure. Analysis was by Mann-Whitney U test comparing times and chi(2) test comparing sedation rate.

Results: One hundred sixty-one patients were eligible for analysis (84 ALA, 77 control). Sixty-five patients were sutured, 84 were treated with glue, 6 were treated with Steristrips, and 6 were not provided with formal closure. The median treatment time for the ALA group was 77 minutes compared with 108 minutes for the control group (effect size 31 minutes; 95% confidence interval 15 to 47 minutes; P =.0019). There was no difference in requirement for sedation between the groups.

Conclusion: The application of ALA at triage significantly reduces total treatment time for children with simple lacerations.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia, Local*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Epinephrine*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Lacerations / surgery*
  • Lidocaine*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Tetracaine*
  • Time Factors


  • Tetracaine
  • Lidocaine
  • Epinephrine