Vasospasm is known to have an adverse effect on the survival of free tissue transfers. Prolonged vasoconstriction decreases blood flow to the flap and promotes thrombosis at the anastomotic site. Because of its wide availability and rapid effect, topically applied lidocaine is used by many surgeons to prevent and correct vasospasm. Mucosal absorption of lidocaine is known to be rapid. Absorption by the surgical bed during microvascular reconstruction has not previously been determined. We had three specific aims: (1) to determine whether systemic absorption occurs, (2) if so, to determine the degree of absorption, and (3) to determine whether the type of reconstruction affects the degree of absorption. Twelve consecutive patients were entered into the study, four in a myocutaneous reconstructive group and eight in a fasciocutaneous group. Baseline serum lidocaine levels were drawn. After the initial application of lidocaine, levels were drawn every 30 minutes. Final levels were drawn 120 minutes after the last application. The total amount of lidocaine used ranged from 720 mg to 2600 mg. Application ranged from 7.5 mg/minute to 34.7 mg/minute (2 to 9 times the estimated toxic dose of 4 mg/minute for a patient weighing 70 kg). Results ranged from undetectable (<0.5 μg/ml) to minimal therapeutic levels (1.6 μg/ml). Toxic levels (>6.0 μg/ml) were not encountered. Significant (p < 0.05) differences were found between the fasciocutaneous group, which generally had no detectable serum levels, and the myocutaneous group, which had detectable subtherapeutic to minimally therapeutic levels. Doses considered toxic by intravenous or mucous membrane application may safely be applied topically. Greater absorption was found in the myocutaneous group, which is believed to be a result of the richer absorption surface provided by the muscular tissue.
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