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Keywords:

  • 5-aminolaevulinic acid;
  • local anaesthetic;
  • pain;
  • photodynamic therapy;
  • tetracaine;
  • visual analogue scale

Summary

Background  Many patients find topical 5-aminolaevulinic acid (ALA) photodynamic therapy (PDT) painful. Local anaesthetics are not routinely used and their effect on PDT pain has not been examined.

Objectives  To evaluate the efficacy of tetracaine gel (Ametop®) for pain relief during and after PDT.

Methods  A prospective, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 42 patients with lesions (≤ 2 cm diameter) of superficial nonmelanoma skin cancer or dysplasia. Patients were randomized to either tetracaine (4% w/w) (n = 22) or vehicle (n = 20) gel under occlusion for 1 h pre-irradiation. Pain was assessed during and after irradiation using a visual analogue scale (VAS) and faces pain scale.

Results  Patients who received tetracaine gel experienced only slightly less pain during PDT (median VAS 4) compared with those who received placebo (median VAS 4·5) (95% confidence interval for difference 0–3, P = 0·08). No significant difference in pain was experienced between the treatment groups immediately after irradiation or later.

Conclusions  When compared with placebo, tetracaine gel did not significantly reduce pain during or after PDT for small lesions of superficial basal cell carcinoma, Bowen's disease or actinic keratosis.