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Cocaine: what role does it have in current ENT practice? A review of the current literature

  • S J Harper (a1) and N S Jones (a1)


Topical cocaine is used by many otorhinolaryngologists because of its good local anaesthetic and vasoconstrictive properties. A review of the available literature suggests a risk/benefit analysis would suggest that in the out-patient setting local anaesthetic agents which do not contain cocaine should be used. For rhinosurgical procedures, preparations containing cocaine and adrenaline in the appropriate concentrations and doseage are safe in the vast majority of patients without previous cardiac disease. The relative benefit of using cocaine in relation to other topical analgesics and vasoconstrictors in surgery remains unproven and alternative preparations should be used wherever there is concern over the cardiac status of the patient.

It is important to be alert to the possibility that patients presenting with a septal perforation or destructive midfacial lesions may be suffering from an addiction to cocaine. It is important to arrive at the correct diagnosis in a destructive process and even in the presence of raised antineutrophilic cytoplasmic antibodies (ANCA) a diagnosis of cocaine abuse should actively be excluded.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: N S Jones, Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, University Hospital, Nottingham, NG7 2UH, UK. E-mail:



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