How long to wait after local infiltration anaesthesia: Systematic review

Document Type

Review Article




Background: Conflicting evidence exists regarding the optimal waiting time for stable analgesic and vasoconstrictive effects after local infiltration of lidocaine with epinephrine. An objective review is needed to dispel surgical dogma.
Methods: This systematic review (PROSPERO ID: CRD42022362414) included RCTs and prospective cohort studies. Primary outcomes were (1) onset of analgesia and (2) onset of stable hypoperfusion, assessed directly, or measured indirectly using perfusion imaging. Other data extracted include waiting strategies, means of outcome assessment, anaesthetic concentrations, volume/endpoint of infiltration, and injection sites. Methodological quality was evaluated using the Cochrane risk-of-bias tool for randomized trials. Articles describing waiting strategies were critically appraised by the Joanna Briggs Institute tools.
Results: Twenty-four articles were analysed, comprising 1013 participants. Ten investigated analgesia onset. Their pooled mean was 2.1 min (range 0.4-9.0 min). This varied with anatomic site and targeted nerve diameter. Fourteen articles investigated onset of stable hypoperfusion. Four observed bleeding intraoperatively, finding the minimum time to hypoperfusion at 7.0 min in the eyelid skin and 25.0 min in the upper limb. The ten remaining studies used perfusion imaging, reporting a wide range of results (0.0-30.0 min) due to differences in anatomic sites and depth, resolution and artefacts. Studies using near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy and hyperspectral imaging correlated with clinical observations. Thirteen articles discussed waiting strategies, seven relating to large-volume tumescent local infiltration anaesthesia. Different waiting strategies exist for emergency, arthroscopic and cosmetic surgeries, according to the degree of hypoperfusion required. In tumescent liposuction, waiting 10.0-60.0 min is the norm.
Conclusion: Current literature suggests that around 2 min are required for most patients to achieve complete analgesia in all sites and with all anaesthesia concentrations. Waiting around 7 min in eyelids and at least 25 min in other regions results in optimal hypoperfusion. The strategies discussed inform decisions of when and how long to wait


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Publication (Name of Journal)

BJS Open