What is the efficacy of lipid emulsion therapy for treatment of local anesthetic toxicity?

Updated: Jan 09, 2019
  • Author: Raffi Kapitanyan, MD; Chief Editor: David Vearrier, MD, MPH  more...
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In an animal model, Weinberg et al demonstrated the successful application of lipid emulsion infusion in the resuscitation of bupivacaine-induced cardiac arrest. [14, 15] Rosenblatt and colleagues were the first to report use of a 20% lipid infusion to resuscitate a patient from prolonged cardiac arrest that followed an interscalene block with bupivacaine and mepivacaine. [16]

Subsequent case reports from other researchers documented successful use of lipid emulsion in the treatment of both cardiovascular and neurologic toxicity, including asystole, cardiovascular collapse, and seizures. Local anesthetic agents involved in these cases have included ropivacaine, mepivacaine and prilocaine, and levobupivacaine. [17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22]

Marwick and colleagues reported a case of successful lipid rescue in which systemic toxicity recurred after 40 minutes. Since additional lipid supply was not available, amiodarone was used for the recurrent dysrhythmia. This case highlights the importance of the availability of a sufficient quantity of lipid emulsion (1000 mL) when regional anesthesia is performed. [23]

Weinberg and colleagues, using an intact animal model of bupivacaine overdose, have shown that lipid emulsion therapy provides superior hemodynamic and metabolic recovery from bupivacaine-induced cardiac arrest than do either epinephrine or vasopressin. [24, 25] Both of these vasopressors were associated with adverse outcomes.

However, several reports question the efficacy of lipid rescue treatment. Mayr et al, working with a porcine model of bupivacaine toxicity, reported that vasopressin combined with epinephrine resulted in higher coronary perfusion pressure during CPR and better short-term survival rates than lipid emulsion. [26] Harvey et al showed that lipid emulsion/ACLS resulted in lower coronary perfusion pressure and lower rates of spontaneous circulation compared with ACLS alone in a rabbit model of asphyxial cardiac arrest. [27]

A range of adverse events have been reported after acute infusion of lipid emulsion. These have included acute kidney injury, cardiac arrest, ventilation-perfusion mismatch, acute lung injury, venous thromboembolism, hypersensitivity, fat embolism, fat overload syndrome, pancreatitis, extracorporeal circulation machine circuit obstruction, allergic reaction, and increased susceptibility to infection. [28]

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