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What Is Bupivacaine?

Local anesthesia relieves pain from dental and oral surgery procedures.
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  • Written By: K.C. Bruning
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 30 September 2014
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Bupivacaine, also know as bupavacaine, is commonly used for local anesthesia or pain relief before and after surgery or dental procedures. The drug can be administered regularly for a short period of time if it is used for post-procedural pain relief. It may also be used during the process of labor and delivery. This medication is administered via epidural or direct injection. It is marketed under the product names Sensorcaine®, Vivacaine®, Marcaine®, and Marcain®.

The drug works by blocking the impulses of the nerves that transmit the sensation of pain. This includes impeding both the creation of nerve impulses and their ability to travel throughout the body. It does this specifically by binding to channels that carry sodium to the nerves, thus stopping their progress. Bupivacaine provides additional numbing by also blocking some potassium channels.

If it is administered incorrectly, bupivacaine can be cardiotoxic, which can result in damage to the muscles in and around the heart. The drug is not only ineffective when administered intravenously, but it has been known to be fatal. This is primarily because the drug does not work correctly when it is absorbed by the whole system instead of being administered locally. These risks are extremely low if the drug is injected as intended.

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There are some conditions that should be disclosed to a doctor before taking bupivacaine, as they may make taking the drug too risky or at least require that the patient be observed more closely while being treated. Patients with heart disease or problems with the liver, kidneys, or blood pressure may be advised not to take the drug. Women who are nursing or pregnant may also be at a higher risk of adverse side effects from taking bupivacaine.

It is also important for patients to disclose all drugs and supplements they are currently taking before starting bupivacaine treatment. Some drugs, such as beta-blockers, may make taking the medication too risky. Patients with an allergy to sulfites should not take the drug.

The most common side effects of taking bupivacaine should only be reported to a doctor if they become severe or do not go away. They are drowsiness or dizziness. Severe side effects should receive immediate attention and include chest pain, seizures, nausea, and vomiting. Some patients may also have blurred vision, an irregular heartbeat, or feel uncharacteristic restlessness and excitement. An allergic medical reaction, which can include breathing problems, hives, rash, swelling, and chest tightness, should receive emergency medical attention.

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