Repeated topical analgesia with EMLA 5% cream prior to the cleansing of venous leg ulcers was studied. Patients were randomly allocated to a series of 8 treatments with EMLA (n = 22) or to a control group (n = 21). A thick layer of the cream was applied to the ulcers for 30 min. At each of the 8 treatments, local reactions were assessed on a 4-point scale and pain from ulcer cleansing on a visual analogue scale. At the first and the last treatment the area of the ulcer was determined by mapping, a sample for a bacterial culture was taken and the amount of dead tissue, slough and granulation tissue present was assessed. Treatment with EMLA for 30 min significantly decreased the pain from cleansing of the leg ulcers and the frequency of post-cleansing pain. The analgesic effect remained unchanged with successive treatments. Repeated treatment with EMLA in leg ulcers would appear to be safe, as indicated by the absence of any serious untoward events. No statistically significant differences in local reactions or adverse effects on granulation tissue, ulcer area or bacterial flora were observed in the EMLA-treated patients compared with the control patients.