Lidocaine is widely used as a local anesthetic for alleviation of post-operative pain and for management of acute and chronic painful conditions. Although several approaches are currently used to prolong the duration of action, an effective strategy to achieve neural blockage for several hours remains to be identified. In this study, a lidocaine-loaded Pluronic® F68-reduced graphene oxide hydrogel was developed to achieve sustained release of lidocaine. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction, and Raman spectroscopy confirmed the synthesis of Pluronic® F68-reduced graphene oxide. Transmission electron microscopy showed wrinkled, flat nanosheets with micelles attached. The developed hydrogel showed desirable pH, viscosity, adhesiveness, hardness, and cohesiveness for topical application. The ex vivo release study demonstrated the ability of the Pluronic® F68-reduced graphene oxide hydrogel to prolong release up to 10 h, owing to the strong π-π interactions between the graphene oxide and the lidocaine. In comparison with a commercial lidocaine ointment, the developed graphene oxide hydrogel showed sustained anesthetic effect in the radiant heat tail flick test and sciatic nerve block model. Thus, this study demonstrates the potential of using Pluronic® F68-reduced graphene oxide nanocarriers to realize prolonged effects of local anesthesia for effective pain management.
Keywords: Local anesthesia; animal studies; graphene oxide; lidocaine; sustained release.