Lidocaine is a local anesthetic and cardiac depressant used to numb tissue in a specific area and for management of cardiac arrhythmias, particularly those of ventricular origins, such as occur with acute myocardial infarction. Lidocaine alters signal conduction in neurons by blocking the fast voltage-gated Na+ channels in the neuronal cell membrane responsible for signal propagation. With sufficient blockage, the membrane of the postsynaptic neuron will not depolarize and will thus fail to transmit an action potential. This creates the anesthetic effect by not merely preventing pain signals from propagating to the brain, but by stopping them before they begin. Careful titration allows for a high degree of selectivity in the blockage of sensory neurons, whereas higher concentrations also affect other modalities of neuron signaling. Lidocaine exerts an antiarrhythmic effect by increasing the electrical stimulation threshold of the ventricle during diastole. In usual therapeutic doses, lidocaine hydrochloride produces no change in myocardial contractility, in systemic arterial pressure, or an absolute refractory period. The efficacy profile of lidocaine as a local anesthetic is characterized by a rapid onset of action and intermediate duration of efficacy. Therefore, lidocaine is suitable for infiltration, block, and surface anesthesia. Longer-acting substances such as bupivacaine are sometimes given preference for spinal and epidural anesthesias; lidocaine, though, has the advantage of a rapid onset of action. Lidocaine is also the most important class-1b antiarrhythmic drug; it is used intravenously for the treatment of ventricular arrhythmias (for acute myocardial infarction, digoxin poisoning, cardioversion, or cardiac catheterization) if amiodarone is not available or contraindicated. Lidocaine should be given for this indication after defibrillation, CPR, and vasopressors have been initiated. A routine preventative dose is no longer recommended after a myocardial infarction as the overall benefit is not convincing. Inhaled lidocaine can be used as a cough suppressor acting peripherally to reduce the cough reflex. This application can be implemented as a safety and comfort measure for patients who have to be intubated, as it reduces the incidence of coughing and any tracheal damage it might cause when emerging from anesthesia. Adverse drug reactions (ADRs) are rare when lidocaine is used as a local anesthetic and is administered correctly. Most ADRs associated with lidocaine for anesthesia relate to administration technique (resulting in systemic exposure) or pharmacological effects of anesthesia, and allergic reactions only rarely occur. Systemic exposure to excessive quantities of lidocaine mainly result in a central nervous system (CNS) and cardiovascular effects – CNS effects usually occur at lower blood plasma concentrations and additional cardiovascular effects present at higher concentrations, though cardiovascular collapse may also occur with low concentrations. NCATS
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