Anesthesia for Neonatal Circumcision: Who Benefits?

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As the medical myths used to justify the practice of neonatal circumcision have each been disproven, the latest "myth" used by circumcisers to perpetuate the surgery is that the use of topical and local anesthetics "eliminates" the pain of neonatal circumcision. While some interventions have reduced the amount of crying during the surgery, it is not clear whether topical or local anesthetics reduce pain substantially. Their impact on the stress of the surgery appears to be minimal. If these attempts at pain relief are not very beneficial for the infant, are they employed to make the circumciser and the parents feel better about what they are doing to the newborn? If these methods are not effective, why is there currently a call for their routine use?


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Robert S. Van Howe, M.D. FAAP

Robert S. Van Howe, M.D. is a Clinical Instructor, Medical College of Wisconsin Department of Pediatrics, Marshfield Clinic - Lakeland Center, Minocqua, Wisconsin. Correspondence directed to: P.O. Box 1390, 9601, Townline Road, Minocqua, Wisconsin 54548-1390, Phone: 715-358-1191

Fax: 715-358-1156, email: