Neuropsychiatric side-effects of lidocaine: examples from the treatment of headache and a review

Cephalalgia. 2009 May;29(5):496-508. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2982.2008.01800.x. Epub 2009 Feb 24.


Lidocaine has been used in treatment of patients with refractory headache. Personal observations of neuropsychiatric toxicity in these patients led us to review our cases and the literature systematically for lidocaine side-effects, especially neuropsychiatric symptoms. In our series of 20 patients, side-effects were observed in all, the most frequent being neuropsychiatric (75%) and cardiological (50%). When reviewing published series on intravenous lidocaine use, reports of side-effects range from 0 to 100%, with neuropsychiatric symptoms being reported in 1.8-100%. Thirty-six case reports of lidocaine-induced psychiatric symptoms were also analysed. Psychiatric symptoms of toxicity were similar in most patients, despite their differing ages, pathologies, co-therapies and lidocaine dosages. In conclusion, lidocaine neuropsychiatric toxicity has a well-recognized stereotypical clinical presentation that is probably unrecognized in headache series. As lidocaine represents an emerging alternative therapy in headache, particularly in short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache attacks with conjunctival injection and tearing, clinicians and patients should be aware of the extent of this problem.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anesthetics, Local / adverse effects*
  • Bradycardia / chemically induced
  • Female
  • Headache / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / chemically induced
  • Lidocaine / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nervous System Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Tachycardia / chemically induced


  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Lidocaine