Circumcision of neonates and children without appropriate anaesthesia is unacceptable practice

Anaesth Intensive Care. 2012 May;40(3):511-6. doi: 10.1177/0310057X1204000318.


Circumcision is painful surgery and appropriate intraoperative anaesthesia and postoperative analgesia is required. This is recognised in the policies of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the majority of Australian State Health Departments. Nevertheless, anecdotal evidence exists that neonatal circumcision continues to be performed in Australia with either no anaesthesia or with inadequate anaesthesia. This paper presents the evidence that neonatal circumcision is painful and reviews the available anaesthetic techniques. The authors conclude that general anaesthesia is arguably the most reliable way of ensuring adequate anaesthesia, although this may mean deferment of the procedure until the child is older. Local or regional anaesthesia for neonatal circumcision ideally requires a separate skilled anaesthetist (other than the proceduralist) to monitor the patient and intervene if the anaesthesia is inadequate. Topical anaesthesia with lignocaine-prilocaine cream is insufficient.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia*
  • Circumcision, Male / methods
  • Circumcision, Male / standards*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Pain / psychology
  • Pain, Postoperative / drug therapy