Numbing medicine eases pain of IV sticks

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: December 21st, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

When a child must give blood or requires intravenous treatment, the needle insertion can seem as nerve-wracking and painful for parents and health practitioners as it is for the young patient.

A Cochrane [kok-renn] Library review, though, suggests one medication is the best of its type in numbing the skin to help ease or eliminate the pain of I-V treatment.

Researchers reviewed six clinical studies comparing a topical anesthetic gel called amethocaine with another topical cream called E-M-L-A. The study involved more than five-hundred children aged three months to fifteen years.

Amethocaine is not yet available in the U-S, but is already prescribed in several other countries, including Canada and the United Kingdom.

Both drugs proved effective, but the amethocaine gel was better at reducing pain and didn’t require as much lead time as the cream.

Both medications are applied to the spot where the I-V will be inserted or the blood drawn. The topical cream, E-M-L-A, takes up to ninety minutes to numb the skin, while the amethocaine gel requires thirty to sixty minutes.

For a scheduled procedure, parents could apply the cream at home so the area is numb well in advance. But in other situations- like in a hospital emergency room- there might not be enough time for a topical anesthetic to take effect before an I-V insertion.

However, researchers say the use of amethocaine can help keep a young patient calm and ensure a successful I-V insertion if the child’s condition is not immediately critical.