BACKGROUND: Tumescent local anaesthesia with prilocain can lead to clinically significant methemoglobin levels. New generation multiple wavelength pulse oximeters (e. g. Masimo Radical 7®) can measure methemoglobin levels.
METHODS: In this prospective observational study we compared the venous methemoglobin levels and the corresponding pulse oximetric values of the Radical 7® in patients undergoing tumescent local anaesthesia for liposuction procedures. The measurements were performed in Hanseklinik, Luebeck, Germany between 2008 and 2011.
RESULTS: In 133 patients, we measured a maximum methemoglobin level of 18 per cent. In a Bland-Altman analysis we found a mean bias of +2.2 % (-4.1 to 8.4 limits of agreement) for pulse oximetric values compared to hemoximetry.
CONCLUSION: Pulse oximetric measurement of methemoglobin is an early-warning tool for the detection of clinically significant methaemoglobinemia in patients with tumescent local anaesthesia.