Maximum recommended doses of local anesthetics: a multifactorial concept

Reg Anesth Pain Med. Nov-Dec 2004;29(6):564-75; discussion 524. doi: 10.1016/j.rapm.2004.08.003.


The current recommendations regarding maximum doses of local anesthetics presented in textbooks, or by the responsible pharmaceutical companies, are not evidence based (ie, determined by randomized and controlled studies). Rather, decisions on recommending certain maximum local anesthetic doses have been made in part by extrapolations from animal experiments, clinical experiences from the use of various doses and measurement of blood concentrations, case reports of local anesthetic toxicity, and pharmacokinetic results. The common occurrence of central nervous system toxicity symptoms when large lidocaine doses were used in infiltration anesthesia led to the recommendation of just 200 mg as the maximum dose, which has remained unchanged for more than 50 years. In most cases, there is no scientific justification for presenting exact milligram doses or mg/kg doses as maximum dose recommendations. Instead, only clinically adequate and safe doses (ranges) that are block specific are justified, taking into consideration the site of local anesthetic injection and patient-related factors such as age, organ dysfunctions, and pregnancy, which may influence the effect and the pharmacokinetics of the local anesthetic. Epinephrine in concentrations of 2.5 to 5 microg/mL should be added to the local anesthetic solution when large doses are administered, providing there are no contraindications for the use of epinephrine. As a rule, conditions (eg, end-stage pregnancy, high age in epidural, or spinal block) or diseases (uremia) that may increase the rate of the initial uptake of the local anesthetic are indications to reduce the dose in comparison to one normally used for young, healthy, and nonpregnant adults. On the other hand, the reduced clearance of local anesthetics associated with renal, hepatic, and cardiac diseases is the most important reason to reduce the dose for repeated or continuous administration. The magnitude of the reduction should be related to the expected influence of the pharmacodynamic or pharmacokinetic change.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Anesthetics, Local / administration & dosage*
  • Anesthetics, Local / pharmacokinetics*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Interactions
  • Epinephrine / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Heart Failure / complications
  • Humans
  • Kidney Diseases / complications
  • Liver Diseases / complications
  • Nerve Block / standards
  • Pregnancy / drug effects
  • Regional Blood Flow / drug effects
  • Vasoconstrictor Agents / pharmacology


  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Vasoconstrictor Agents
  • Epinephrine