The Bupivacaine Story: A Tribute to George A. Albright, MD (1931-2020)

Anesth Analg. 2022 Aug 3. doi: 10.1213/ANE.0000000000006161. Online ahead of print.


In 1979, George A. Albright, MD (1931-2020) published a controversial editorial in Anesthesiology that raised the question of bupivacaine cardiotoxicity. In it, he presented several cases of rapid cardiovascular collapse after administration of the highly lipophilic local anesthetic and called for further investigation. Although the scientific community initially resisted Dr Albright's idea, his editorial would ultimately lead to several important advancements in anesthesiology. In 1983, the US Food and Drug Administration issued a black box warning that recommended against the use of 0.75% bupivacaine in obstetric anesthesia. This warning would remain in place until 1999. In addition, Dr Albright's article led to the following changes: laboratory research that proved the cardiotoxicity of bupivacaine; the development of safer, stereoselective agents like ropivacaine; and the acceptance of lipid emulsion as a treatment for local anesthetic toxicity. In this article, C. Philip Larson, Jr, MDCM, Editor-in-Chief of Anesthesiology at the time of publication of Albright's manuscript, provides a unique perspective on the bupivacaine story.