Electricity Eliminates the Needle in Anesthesia Delivery



Many patients don’t like needles. So, dentists soon may be using a tiny electric current instead to administer anesthesia with faster onset and prolonged duration, according to the University of São Paulo in Brazil.

“Needle-free administration could save costs, improve patient compliance, facilitate application, and decrease the risks of intoxication and contamination,” said professor Renata Fonseca Vianna Lopez, one of the authors of the study.

When patients are afraid of needles, many dentists first apply a topical painkiller via an ointment, spray, or hydrogel such as those that contain lidocaine and prilocaine. Applying an electric current via a process called iontophoresis makes these anesthetics more effective.

First, the researchers prepared a hydrogel with a polymer to help it stick to the lining of the mouth. Then, they added prilocaine hydrochloride and lidocaine hydrochloride and tested the gel on a pig’s mouth lining.

After applying a tiny electric current, the researchers found that the anesthesia acted quickly and lasted a long time. The prilocaine hydrochloride entered the body more effectively, as its permeation through the mouth lining increased by a factor of 12.

Next, the researchers will develop an iontophoretic device to use specifically in the mouth and perform preclinical trials. They also say that potential applications range beyond dentistry and into other areas such as cancer treatment.

“The skin and eyes pose challenges for drug delivery,” said Lopez, “so we have focused on improving drug delivery in these organs using nanotechnology, iontophoresis, and sonophoresis, which is permeation using sound waves.”

The study, “Needle-Free Buccal Anesthesia Using Iontophoresis and Amino Amide Salts Combined in a Mucoadhesive Formulation,” was published by Colloids and Surfaces B: Bionterfaces.

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