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A comparison of lidocaine, ropivacaine and dexamethasone toxicity on bovine tenocytes in culture

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Peri-tendinous injection of local anaesthetic, both alone and in combination with corticosteroids, is commonly performed in the treatment of tendinopathies. Previous studies have shown that local anaesthetics and corticosteroids are chondrotoxic, but their effect on tenocytes remains unknown. We compared the effects of lidocaine and ropivacaine, alone or combined with dexamethasone, on the viability of cultured bovine tenocytes. Tenocytes were exposed to ten different conditions: 1) normal saline; 2) 1% lidocaine; 3) 2% lidocaine; 4) 0.2% ropivacaine; 5) 0.5% ropivacaine; 6) dexamethasone (dex); 7) 1% lidocaine+dex; 8) 2% lidocaine+dex; 9) 0.2% ropivacaine+dex; and 10) 0.5% ropivacaine+dex, for 30 minutes. After a 24-hour recovery period, the viability of the tenocytes was quantified using the CellTiter-Glo viability assay and fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) for live/dead cell counts. A 30-minute exposure to lidocaine alone was significantly toxic to the tenocytes in a dose-dependent manner, but a 30-minute exposure to ropivacaine or dexamethasone alone was not significantly toxic.

Dexamethasone potentiated ropivacaine tenocyte toxicity at higher doses of ropivacaine, but did not potentiate lidocaine tenocyte toxicity. As seen in other cell types, lidocaine has a dose-dependent toxicity to tenocytes but ropivacaine is not significantly toxic. Although dexamethasone alone is not toxic, its combination with 0.5% ropivacaine significantly increased its toxicity to tenocytes. These findings might be relevant to clinical practice and warrant further investigation.

Correspondence should be sent to Dr B. T. Feeley; e-mail:

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