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Rapid Local Anesthesia in Humans Using Minimally Invasive Microneedles

Gupta, Jyoti PhD*; Denson, Donald D. PhD†,‡; Felner, Eric I. MD, MS*,§; Prausnitz, Mark R. PhD*

doi: 10.1097/AJP.0b013e318225dbe9
Original Articles

Objective This study tested the hypothesis that minimally invasive microneedles cause less pain during injection of lidocaine, but induce local anesthesia in humans with the same rapid onset and efficacy as intradermal lidocaine injection using hypodermic needles.

Methods This study was a randomized, single-blinded, within participants, controlled design. Hollow, 500-μm long microneedles were used to inject lidocaine to the forearm of 15 human participants. The associated pain was recorded using a visual analog (VAS) scale. The area and depth of numbness were determined at 0, 7.5, and 15 minutes after injection. Lidocaine was also injected to the dorsum of the hand near a vein, followed by placement of an intravenous catheter and measurement of associated pain. A 26-gauge intradermal bevel hypodermic needle similarly administered lidocaine on the opposite forearm/hand to serve as the positive control.

Results VAS pain scores revealed that injection using microneedles was significantly less painful than hypodermic needles for both the forearm and dorsum of the hand injections. However, there was no significant difference in the area or depth of the resulting numbness between the 2 treatment methods at any time point (0, 7.5, and 15 min) indicating that microneedles had immediate onset and were as effective as hypodermic needles in inducing dermal anesthesia. Moreover, insertion of an intravenous catheter immediately after lidocaine injection on the dorsum of the hand led to comparable pain scores for the microneedle and hypodermic needle treated sites, further confirming efficacy of microneedles in inducing rapid local anesthesia. Lastly, 77% of the participants preferred microneedles and 80% indicated that they did not consider microneedles to be painful.

Discussion This study demonstrates for the first time that microneedle-based lidocaine injection is as rapid and as effective as hypodermic injection in inducing local anesthesia while resulting in significantly less pain during injection.

*School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology

Departments of †Anesthesiology


§Pediatrics, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA

Supported in part by the National Institutes of Health grant numbers R01EB000260 and R01EB006369. Dr Prausnitz serves as a consultant and is an inventor on patents licensed to companies developing microneedle-based products. This potential conflict of interest has been disclosed and is being managed by the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University.

Reprints: Mark R. Prausnitz, PhD, School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, 311 Ferst Drive NW, Atlanta, GA 30332 (e-mail:

Received February 3, 2011

Accepted May 24, 2011

Copyright © 2012 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.