Medical Editor: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP Last updated on RxList: 9/20/2022

Drug Summary

What Is Emla?

Emla (lidocaine 2.5% and prilocaine 2.5%) Cream is a topical anesthetic for use on normal intact skin for local analgesia of intact skin and to prevent pain associated with IV cannulation, needle insertion, and superficial surgery on skin and genital mucous membranes.

What Are Side Effects of Emla?

Side effects of Emla include:

  • mild burning/swelling/tingling/changes in skin color where Emla is applied, or
  • skin redness.

Remove Emla cream and get medical help right away if you have rare but very serious side effects of Emla including:

  • slow or shallow breathing,
  • pale or bluish skin around the mouth or lips,
  • dizziness,
  • fainting,
  • fast/slow/irregular heartbeat,
  • mental/mood changes (e.g., confusion, nervousness),
  • seizures, or
  • severe drowsiness.

Seek medical care or call 911 at once if you have the following serious side effects:

  • Serious eye symptoms such as sudden vision loss, blurred vision, tunnel vision, eye pain or swelling, or seeing halos around lights;
  • Serious heart symptoms such as fast, irregular, or pounding heartbeats; fluttering in your chest; shortness of breath; and sudden dizziness, lightheartedness, or passing out;
  • Severe headache, confusion, slurred speech, arm or leg weakness, trouble walking, loss of coordination, feeling unsteady, very stiff muscles, high fever, profuse sweating, or tremors.

This document does not contain all possible side effects and others may occur. Check with your physician for additional information about side effects.

Dosage for Emla

Emla contains 25 mg each of lidocane and prilocane per gram. For application and dosing information foror adult and pediatric patients; apply only as prescribed by the physician.

What Drugs, Substances, or Supplements Interact with Emla?

Emla may interact with heart rhythm medications, acetaminophen, chloroquine, dapsone, nitrates or nitrites, nitrofurantoin, phenobarbital, primaquine, quinine, or sulfa drugs. Tell your doctor all medications and supplements you use.

Emla During Pregnancy or Breastfeeding

Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant during treatment with Emla; it is not expected to be harmful to a fetus. Emla topical can pass into breast milk and may harm a nursing baby. Consult your doctor before breastfeeding.

Additional Information

Our Emla (lidocaine 2.5% and prilocaine 2.5%) Side Effects Drug Center provides a comprehensive view of available drug information on the potential side effects when taking this medication.

Drug Description


EMLA Cream (lidocaine 2.5% and prilocaine 2.5%) is an emulsion in which the oil phase is a eutectic mixture of lidocaine and prilocaine in a ratio of 1:1 by weight. This eutectic mixture has a melting point below room temperature and therefore both local anesthetics exist as a liquid oil rather than as crystals. It is packaged in 5 gram and 30 gram tubes.

Lidocaine is chemically designated as acetamide, 2-(diethylamino)-N-(2,6-dimethylphenyl), has an octanol: water partition ratio of 43 at pH 7.4, and has the following structure:

Lidocaine Structural Formula Illustration

Prilocaine is chemically designated as propanamide, N-(2-methylphenyl)-2-(propylamino), has an octanol: water partition ratio of 25 at pH 7.4, and has the following structure:

Prilocaine Structural Formula Illustration

Each gram of EMLA (lidocaine and prilocaine) Cream contains lidocaine 25 mg, prilocaine 25 mg, polyoxyethylene fatty acid esters (as emulsifiers), carboxypolymethylene (as a thickening agent), sodium hydroxide to adjust to a pH approximating 9, and purified water to 1 gram. EMLA (lidocaine and prilocaine) Cream contains no preservative, however it passes the USP antimicrobial effectiveness test due to the pH. The specific gravity of EMLA (lidocaine and prilocaine) Cream is 1.00.

Indications & Dosage


EMLA Cream (a eutectic mixture of lidocaine 2.5% and prilocaine 2.5%) is indicated as a topical anesthetic for use on:

  • normal intact skin for local analgesia.
  • genital mucous membranes for superficial minor surgery and as pretreatment for infiltration anesthesia.

EMLA Cream is not recommended in any clinical situation when penetration or migration beyond the tympanic membrane into the middle ear is possible because of the ototoxic effects observed in animal studies (see WARNINGS).


Adult Patients-Intact Skin

A thick layer of EMLA Cream is applied to intact skin and covered with an occlusive dressing (see Instructions For Application).

Minor Dermal Procedures

For minor procedures such as intravenous cannulation and venipuncture, apply 2.5 grams of EMLA Cream (1/2 the 5 g tube) over 20 to 25 cm2 of skin surface for at least 1 hour. In controlled clinical trials using EMLA Cream, two sites were usually prepared in case there was a technical problem with cannulation or venipuncture at the first site.

Major Dermal Procedures

For more painful dermatological procedures involving a larger skin area such as split thickness skin graft harvesting, apply 2 grams of EMLA Cream per 10 cm2 of skin and allow to remain in contact with the skin for at least 2 hours.

Adult Male Genital Skin

As an adjunct prior to local anesthetic infiltration, apply a thick layer of EMLA Cream (1 g/10 cm2) to the skin surface for 15 minutes. Local anesthetic infiltration should be performed immediately after removal of EMLA Cream.

Dermal analgesia can be expected to increase for up to 3 hours under occlusive dressing and persist for 1 to 2 hours after removal of the cream. The amount of lidocaine and prilocaine absorbed during the period of application can be estimated from the information in Table 2,

** footnote, in Individualization of Dose.

Adult Female Patients-Genital Mucous Membranes

For minor procedures on the female external genitalia, such as removal of condylomata acuminata, as well as for use as pretreatment for anesthetic infiltration, apply a thick layer (5 to 10 grams) of EMLA Cream for 5 to 10 minutes.

Occlusion is not necessary for absorption, but may be helpful to keep the cream in place. Patients should be lying down during the EMLA Cream application, especially if no occlusion is used. The procedure or the local anesthetic infiltration should be performed immediately after the removal of EMLA Cream.

Pediatric Patients-Intact Skin

The following are the maximum recommended doses, application areas and application times for EMLA Cream based on a child's age and weight:

Age and Body Weight Requirements Maximum Total Dose of EMLA Cream Maximum Application Area Maximum Application Time
0 up to 3 months or < 5 kg 1 g 10 cm2 1 hour
3 up to 12 months and > 5 kg 2 g 20 cm2 4 hours
1 to 6 years and > 10 kg 10 g 100 cm2 4 hours
7 to 12 years and > 20 kg 20 g 200 cm2 4 hours

Please note: If a patient greater than 3 months old does not meet the minimum weight requirement, the maximum total dose of EMLA Cream should be restricted to that which corresponds to the patient’s weight (see Instructions For Application).

Practitioners should carefully instruct caregivers to avoid application of excessive amounts of EMLA Cream (see PRECAUTIONS).

When applying EMLA Cream to the skin of young children, care must be taken to maintain careful observation of the child to prevent accidental ingestion of EMLA Cream or the occlusive dressing. A secondary protective covering to prevent inadvertent disruption of the application site may be useful.

EMLA Cream should not be used in neonates with a gestational age less than 37 weeks nor in infants under the age of 12 months who are receiving treatment with methemoglobin-inducing agents (see Methemoglobinemia subsection of WARNINGS).

When EMLA Cream (lidocaine 2.5% and prilocaine 2.5%) is used concomitantly with other products containing local anesthetic agents, the amount absorbed from all formulations must be considered (see Individualization Of Dose). The amount absorbed in the case of EMLA Cream is determined by the area over which it is applied and the duration of application under occlusion (see Table 2, ** footnote, in Individualization of Dose).

Although the incidence of systemic adverse reactions with EMLA Cream is very low, caution should be exercised, particularly when applying it over large areas and leaving it on for longer than 2 hours. The incidence of systemic adverse reactions can be expected to be directly proportional to the area and time of exposure (see Individualization Of Dose).

Instructions For Application

To measure 1 gram of EMLA, the cream should be gently squeezed out of the tube as a narrow strip that is 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) long and 0.2 inches (5 mm) wide. The strip of EMLA Cream should be contained within the lines of the diagram shown below.

≈ 1 g strip
1.5 x 0.2 inches

Use the number of strips that equals your dose, like the examples in the table below.

Dosing Information
1 gram = 1 strip
2 grams = 2 strips
2.5 grams = 2.5 strips

For adult and pediatric patients, apply ONLY as prescribed by your physician.

If your child is below the age of 3 months or small for their age, please inform your doctor before applying EMLA Cream, which can be harmful, if applied over too much skin at one time in young children.

When applying EMLA Cream to the intact skin of young children, it is important that they be carefully observed by an adult in order to prevent the accidental ingestion of or eye contact with EMLA Cream.

EMLA Cream must be applied to intact skin at least 1 hour before the start of a routine procedure and for 2 hours before the start of a painful procedure. A protective covering of the cream is not necessary for absorption but may be helpful to keep the cream in place.

If using a protective covering, your doctor will remove it, wipe off the EMLA Cream, and clean the entire area with an antiseptic solution before the procedure. The duration of effective skin anesthesia will be at least 1 hour after removal of the protective covering.


  1. Do not apply near eyes or open wounds.
  2. Keep out of the reach of children.
  3. If your child becomes very dizzy, excessively sleepy, or develops duskiness of the face or lips after applying EMLA Cream, remove the cream and contact the child's physician at once.


EMLA Cream is available as the following:

NDC No. Strength Size
NDC 61874-002-26 5 gram/tube packed individually.
NDC 61874-002-72 5 gram/tube packed in 5.
NDC 61874-002-30 30 gram/tube packed individually, in a child-resistant tube.

Not For Ophthalmic Use.


Store at 20° to 25°C (68° to 77°F); excursions permitted between 15° to 30°C (59° to 86°F). [see USP Controlled Room Temperature].

Manufactured By: IGI Laboratories Inc. Buena, NJ 08310 USA. Revised Nov 2018

Side Effects


Localized Reactions

During or immediately after treatment with EMLA Cream on intact skin, the skin at the site of treatment may develop erythema or edema or may be the locus of abnormal sensation. Rare cases of discrete purpuric or petechial reactions at the application site have been reported. Rare cases of hyperpigmentation following the use of EMLA Cream have been reported. The relationship to EMLA Cream or the underlying procedure has not been established. In clinical studies on intact skin involving over 1,300 EMLA Cream-treated subjects, one or more such local reactions were noted in 56% of patients, and were generally mild and transient, resolving spontaneously within 1 or 2 hours. There were no serious reactions that were ascribed to EMLA Cream.

Two recent reports describe blistering on the foreskin in neonates about to undergo circumcision. Both neonates received 1.0 g of EMLA Cream.

In patients treated with EMLA Cream on intact skin, local effects observed in the trials included: paleness (pallor or blanching) 37%, redness (erythema) 30%, alterations in temperature sensations 7%, edema 6%, itching 2% and rash, less than 1%.

In clinical studies on genital mucous membranes involving 378 EMLA Cream-treated patients, one or more application site reactions, usually mild and transient, were noted in 41% of patients. The most common application site reactions were redness (21%), burning sensation (17%) and edema (10%).

Allergic Reactions

Allergic and anaphylactoid reactions associated with lidocaine or prilocaine can occur. They are characterized by urticaria, angioedema, bronchospasm, and shock. If they occur they should be managed by conventional means. The detection of sensitivity by skin testing is of doubtful value.

Systemic (Dose Related) Reactions

Systemic adverse reactions following appropriate use of EMLA Cream are unlikely due to the small dose absorbed (see Pharmacokinetics subsection of CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY). Systemic adverse effects of lidocaine and/or prilocaine are similar in nature to those observed with other amide local anesthetic agents including CNS excitation and/or depression (lightheadedness, nervousness, apprehension, euphoria, confusion, dizziness, drowsiness, tinnitus, blurred or double vision, vomiting, sensations of heat, cold or numbness, twitching, tremors, convulsions, unconsciousness, respiratory depression and arrest). Excitatory CNS reactions may be brief or not occur at all, in which case the first manifestation may be drowsiness merging into unconsciousness. Cardiovascular manifestations may include bradycardia, hypotension and cardiovascular collapse leading to arrest.

Drug Interactions


EMLA Cream should be used with caution in patients receiving Class I antiarrhythmic drugs (such as tocainide and mexiletine) since the toxic effects are additive and potentially synergistic.

Patients who are administered local anesthetics are at increased risk of developing methemoglobinemia when concurrently exposed to the following drugs, which could include other local anesthetics:

Examples of Drugs Associated with Methemoglobinemia:

Class Examples
Nitrates/Nitrites nitric oxide, nitroglycerin, nitroprusside, nitrous oxide
Local anesthetics articaine, benzocaine, bupivacaine, lidocaine, mepivacaine, prilocaine, procaine, ropivacaine, tetracaine
Antineoplastic agents cyclophosphamide, flutamide, hydroxyurea, ifosfamide, rasburicase
Antibiotics dapsone, nitrofurantoin, para-aminosalicylic acid, sulfonamides
Antimalarials chloroquine, primaquine
Anticonvulsants Phenobarbital, phenytoin, sodium valproate
Other drugs acetaminophen, metoclopramide, quinine, sulfasalazine

Specific interaction studies with lidocaine/prilocaine and class III anti-arrhythmic drugs (e.g., amiodarone, bretylium, sotalol, dofetilide) have not been performed, but caution is advised (see WARNINGS).

Should EMLA Cream be used concomitantly with other products containing lidocaine and/or prilocaine, cumulative doses from all formulations must be considered.



Application of EMLA Cream to larger areas or for longer times than those recommended could result in sufficient absorption of lidocaine and prilocaine resulting in serious adverse effects (see Individualization Of Dose).

Patients treated with class III anti-arrhythmic drugs (e.g., amiodarone, bretylium, sotalol, dofetilide) should be under close surveillance and ECG monitoring considered, because cardiac effects may be additive.

Studies in laboratory animals (guinea pigs) have shown that EMLA Cream has an ototoxic effect when instilled into the middle ear. In these same studies, animals exposed to EMLA Cream only in the external auditory canal, showed no abnormality. EMLA Cream should not be used in any clinical situation when its penetration or migration beyond the tympanic membrane into the middle ear is possible.


Cases of methemoglobinemia have been reported in association with local anesthetic use. Although all patients are at risk for methemoglobinemia, patients with glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency, congenital or idiopathic methemoglobinemia, cardiac or pulmonary compromise, infants under 6 months of age, and concurrent exposure to oxidizing agents or their metabolites are more susceptible to developing clinical manifestations of the condition. If local anesthetics must be used in these patients, close monitoring for symptoms and signs of methemoglobinemia is recommended.

Signs of methemoglobinemia may occur immediately or may be delayed some hours after exposure, and are characterized by a cyanotic skin discoloration and/or abnormal coloration of the blood. Methemoglobin levels may continue to rise; therefore, immediate treatment is required to avert more serious central nervous system and cardiovascular adverse effects, including seizures, coma, arrhythmias, and death. Discontinue EMLA and any other oxidizing agents. Depending on the severity of the signs and symptoms, patients may respond to supportive care, i.e., oxygen therapy, hydration. A more severe clinical presentation may require treatment with methylene blue, exchange transfusion, or hyperbaric oxygen.




Repeated doses of EMLA Cream may increase blood levels of lidocaine and prilocaine. EMLA Cream should be used with caution in patients who may be more sensitive to the systemic effects of lidocaine and prilocaine including acutely ill, debilitated, or elderly patients.

EMLA Cream should not be applied to open wounds.

Care should be taken not to allow EMLA Cream to come in contact with the eye because animal studies have demonstrated severe eye irritation. Also the loss of protective reflexes can permit corneal irritation and potential abrasion. Absorption of EMLA Cream in conjunctival tissues has not been determined. If eye contact occurs, immediately wash out the eye with water or saline and protect the eye until sensation returns.

Patients allergic to paraaminobenzoic acid derivatives (procaine, tetracaine, benzocaine, etc.) have not shown cross sensitivity to lidocaine and/or prilocaine, however, EMLA Cream should be used with caution in patients with a history of drug sensitivities, especially if the etiologic agent is uncertain.

Patients with severe hepatic disease, because of their inability to metabolize local anesthetics normally, are at greater risk of developing toxic plasma concentrations of lidocaine and prilocaine.

Lidocaine and prilocaine have been shown to inhibit viral and bacterial growth. The effect of EMLA Cream on intradermal injections of live vaccines has not been determined.

Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment Of Fertility


Long-term studies in animals designed to evaluate the carcinogenic potential of lidocaine and prilocaine have not been conducted.

Metabolites of prilocaine have been shown to be carcinogenic in laboratory animals. In the animal studies reported below, doses or blood levels are compared with the Single Dermal Administration (SDA) of 60 g of EMLA Cream to 400 cm2 for 3 hours to a small person (50 kg). The typical application of EMLA Cream for one or two treatments for venipuncture sites (2.5 or 5 g) would be 1/24 or 1/12 of that dose in an adult or about the same mg/kg dose in an infant.

Chronic oral toxicity studies of ortho-toluidine, a metabolite of prilocaine, in mice (450 to 7200 mg/m2; 60 to 960 times SDA) and rats (900 to 4,800 mg/m2; 60 to 320 times SDA) have shown that ortho-toluidine is a carcinogen in both species. The tumors included hepatocarcinomas/adenomas in female mice, multiple occurrences of hemangiosarcomas/ hemangiomas in both sexes of mice, sarcomas of multiple organs, transitional-cell carcinomas/ papillomas of urinary bladder in both sexes of rats, subcutaneous fibromas/fibrosarcomas and mesotheliomas in male rats, and mammary gland fibroadenomas/adenomas in female rats. The lowest dose tested (450 mg/m2 in mice, 900 mg/m2 in rats; 60 times SDA) was carcinogenic in both species. Thus the no-effect dose must be less than 60 times SDA. The animal studies were conducted at 150 to 2,400 mg/kg in mice and at 150 to 800 mg/kg in rats. The dosages have been converted to mg/m2 for the SDA calculations above.


The mutagenic potential of lidocaine HCl has been tested in a bacterial reverse (Ames) assay in Salmonella, an in vitro chromosomal aberration assay using human lymphocytes and in an in vivo micronucleus test in mice. There was no indication of mutagenicity or structural damage to chromosomes in these tests.

Ortho-toluidine, a metabolite of prilocaine, at a concentration of 0.5 μg/mL, was genotoxic in Escherichia coli DNA repair and phage-induction assays. Urine concentrates from rats treated with ortho-toluidine (300 mg/kg orally; 300 times SDA) were mutagenic when examined in Salmonella typhimurium in the presence of metabolic activation. Several other tests on ortho-toluidine, including reverse mutations in five different Salmonella typhimurium strains in the presence or absence of metabolic activation and a study to detect single strand breaks in DNA of V79 Chinese hamster cells, were negative.

Impairment Of Fertility

See Use In Pregnancy.

Use In Pregnancy

Teratogenic Effects

Pregnancy Category B.

Reproduction studies with lidocaine have been performed in rats and have revealed no evidence of harm to the fetus (30 mg/kg subcutaneously; 22 times SDA). Reproduction studies with prilocaine have been performed in rats and have revealed no evidence of impaired fertility or harm to the fetus (300 mg/kg intramuscularly; 188 times SDA). There are, however, no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women. Because animal reproduction studies are not always predictive of human response, EMLA Cream should be used during pregnancy only if clearly needed.

Reproduction studies have been performed in rats receiving subcutaneous administration of an aqueous mixture containing lidocaine HCl and prilocaine HCl at 1:1 (w/w). At 40 mg/kg each, a dose equivalent to 29 times SDA lidocaine and 25 times SDA prilocaine, no teratogenic, embryotoxic or fetotoxic effects were observed.

Labor And Delivery

Neither lidocaine nor prilocaine are contraindicated in labor and delivery. Should EMLA Cream be used concomitantly with other products containing lidocaine and/or prilocaine, cumulative doses from all formulations must be considered.

Nursing Mothers

Lidocaine, and probably prilocaine, are excreted in human milk. Therefore, caution should be exercised when EMLA Cream is administered to a nursing mother since the milk:plasma ratio of lidocaine is 0.4 and is not determined for prilocaine.

Pediatric Use

Controlled studies of EMLA Cream in children under the age of seven years have shown less overall benefit than in older children or adults. These results illustrate the importance of emotional and psychological support of younger children undergoing medical or surgical procedures.

EMLA Cream should be used with care in patients with conditions or therapy associated with methemoglobinemia (see Methemoglobinemia subsection of WARNINGS).

When using EMLA Cream in young children, especially infants under the age of 3 months, care must be taken to insure that the caregiver understands the need to limit the dose and area of application, and to prevent accidental ingestion (see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION and Methemoglobinemia).

In neonates (minimum gestation age: 37 weeks) and children weighing less than 20 kg, the area and duration of application should be limited (see TABLE 2 in Individualization of Dose).

Studies have not demonstrated the efficacy of EMLA Cream for heel lancing in neonates.

Geriatric Use

Of the total number of patients in clinical studies of EMLA Cream, 180 were age 65 to 74 and 138 were 75 and over. No overall differences in safety or efficacy were observed between these patients and younger patients. Other reported clinical experience has not identified differences in responses between the elderly and younger patients, but greater sensitivity of some older individuals cannot be ruled out.

Plasma levels of lidocaine and prilocaine in geriatric and non-geriatric patients following application of a thick layer of EMLA Cream are very low and well below potentially toxic levels. However, there are no sufficient data to evaluate quantitative differences in systemic plasma levels of lidocaine and prilocaine between geriatric and non-geriatric patients following application of EMLA Cream.

Consideration should be given for those elderly patients who have enhanced sensitivity to systemic absorption (see PRECAUTIONS).

After intravenous dosing, the elimination half-life of lidocaine is significantly longer in elderly patients (2.5 hours) than in younger patients (1.5 hours). (see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY).

Overdose & Contraindications


Peak blood levels following a 60 g application to 400 cm2 of intact skin for 3 hours are 0.05 to 0.16 μg/mL for lidocaine and 0.02 to 0.10 μg/mL for prilocaine. Toxic levels of lidocaine (>5 μg/mL) and/or prilocaine (>6 μg/mL) cause decreases in cardiac output, total peripheral resistance and mean arterial pressure. These changes may be attributable to direct depressant effects of these local anesthetic agents on the cardiovascular system. In the absence of massive topical overdose or oral ingestion, evaluation should include evaluation of other etiologies for the clinical effects or overdosage from other sources of lidocaine, prilocaine or other local anesthetics. Consult the package inserts for parenteral Xylocaine (lidocaine HCl) or Citanest (prilocaine HCl) for further information for the management of overdose.


EMLA Cream (lidocaine 2.5% and prilocaine 2.5%) is contraindicated in patients with a known history of sensitivity to local anesthetics of the amide type or to any other component of the product.

Clinical Pharmacology


Mechanism Of Action

EMLA Cream (lidocaine 2.5% and prilocaine 2.5%), applied to intact skin under occlusive dressing, provides dermal analgesia by the release of lidocaine and prilocaine from the cream into the epidermal and dermal layers of the skin and by the accumulation of lidocaine and prilocaine in the vicinity of dermal pain receptors and nerve endings. Lidocaine and prilocaine are amide-type local anesthetic agents. Both lidocaine and prilocaine stabilize neuronal membranes by inhibiting the ionic fluxes required for the initiation and conduction of impulses, thereby effecting local anesthetic action.

The onset, depth and duration of dermal analgesia on intact skin provided by EMLA Cream depend primarily on the duration of application. To provide sufficient analgesia for clinical procedures such as intravenous catheter placement and venipuncture, EMLA Cream should be applied under an occlusive dressing for at least 1 hour. To provide dermal analgesia for clinical procedures such as split skin graft harvesting, EMLA Cream should be applied under occlusive dressing for at least 2 hours. Satisfactory dermal analgesia is achieved 1 hour after application, reaches maximum at 2 to 3 hours, and persists for 1 to 2 hours after removal. Absorption from the genital mucosa is more rapid and onset time is shorter (5 to 10 minutes) than after application to intact skin. After a 5 to 10 minute application of EMLA Cream to female genital mucosa, the average duration of effective analgesia to an argon laser stimulus (which produced a sharp, pricking pain) was 15 to 20 minutes (individual variations in the range of 5 to 45 minutes).

Dermal application of EMLA Cream may cause a transient, local blanching followed by a transient, local redness or erythema.


EMLA Cream is a eutectic mixture of lidocaine 2.5% and prilocaine 2.5% formulated as an oil in water emulsion. In this eutectic mixture, both anesthetics are liquid at room temperature (see DESCRIPTION) and the penetration and subsequent systemic absorption of both prilocaine and lidocaine are enhanced over that which would be seen if each component in crystalline form was applied separately as a 2.5% topical cream.


The amount of lidocaine and prilocaine systemically absorbed from EMLA Cream is directly related to both the duration of application and to the area over which it is applied. In two pharmacokinetic studies, 60 g of EMLA Cream (1.5 g lidocaine and 1.5 g prilocaine) was applied to 400 cm2 of intact skin on the lateral thigh and then covered by an occlusive dressing. The subjects were then randomized such that one-half of the subjects had the occlusive dressing and residual cream removed after 3 hours, while the remainder left the dressing in place for 24 hours. The results from these studies are summarized below.

TABLE 1: Absorption of Lidocaine and Prilocaine from EMLA Cream: Normal Volunteers (N=16)

EMLA Cream (g) Area
Time on
Drug Content
60 400 3 lidocaine 1500 54 0.12 4
prilocaine 1500 92 0.07 4
60 400 24* lidocaine 1500 243 0.28 10
prilocaine 1500 503 0.14 10
*Maximum recommended duration of exposure is 4 hours.

When 60 g of EMLA Cream was applied over 400 cm2 for 24 hours, peak blood levels of lidocaine are approximately 1/20 the systemic toxic level. Likewise, the maximum prilocaine level is about 1/36 the toxic level. In a pharmacokinetic study, EMLA Cream was applied to penile skin in 20 adult male patients in doses ranging from 0.5 g to 3.3 g for 15 minutes. Plasma concentrations of lidocaine and prilocaine following EMLA Cream application in this study were consistently low (2.5 to 16 ng/mL for lidocaine and 2.5 to 7 ng/mL for prilocaine). The application of EMLA Cream to broken or inflamed skin, or to 2,000 cm2 or more of skin where more of both anesthetics are absorbed, could result in higher plasma levels that could, in susceptible individuals, produce a systemic pharmacologic response.

The absorption of EMLA Cream applied to genital mucous membranes was studied in two open-label clinical trials. Twenty-nine patients received 10 g of EMLA Cream applied for 10 to 60 minutes in the vaginal fornices. Plasma concentrations of lidocaine and prilocaine following EMLA Cream application in these studies ranged from 148 to 641 ng/mL for lidocaine and 40 to 346 ng/mL for prilocaine and time to reach maximum concentration (tmax) ranged from 21 to 125 minutes for lidocaine and from 21 to 95 minutes for prilocaine. These levels are well below the concentrations anticipated to give rise to systemic toxicity (approximately 5000 ng/mL for lidocaine and prilocaine).


When each drug is administered intravenously, the steady-state volume of distribution is 1.1 to 2.1 L/kg (mean 1.5, ±0.3 SD, n=13) for lidocaine and is 0.7 to 4.4 L/kg (mean 2.6, ±1.3 SD, n=13) for prilocaine.

The larger distribution volume for prilocaine produces the lower plasma concentrations of prilocaine observed when equal amounts of prilocaine and lidocaine are administered. At concentrations produced by application of EMLA Cream, lidocaine is approximately 70% bound to plasma proteins, primarily alpha-1-acid glycoprotein. At much higher plasma concentrations (1 to 4 μg/mL of free base) the plasma protein binding of lidocaine is concentration dependent. Prilocaine is 55% bound to plasma proteins. Both lidocaine and prilocaine cross the placental and blood brain barrier, presumably by passive diffusion.


It is not known if lidocaine or prilocaine are metabolized in the skin. Lidocaine is metabolized rapidly by the liver to a number of metabolites including monoethylglycinexylidide (MEGX) and glycinexylidide (GX), both of which have pharmacologic activity similar to, but less potent than that of lidocaine. The metabolite, 2,6-xylidine, has unknown pharmacologic activity. Following intravenous administration, MEGX and GX concentrations in serum range from 11 to 36% and from 5 to 11% of lidocaine concentrations, respectively. Prilocaine is metabolized in both the liver and kidneys by amidases to various metabolites including ortho-toluidine and N-n-propylalanine. It is not metabolized by plasma esterases. The ortho-toluidine metabolite has been shown to be carcinogenic in several animal models (see Carcinogenesis subsection of PRECAUTIONS). In addition, ortho-toluidine can produce methemoglobinemia following systemic doses of prilocaine approximating 8 mg/kg (see ADVERSE REACTIONS). Very young patients, patients with glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiencies and patients taking oxidizing drugs such as antimalarials and sulfonamides are more susceptible to methemoglobinemia (see Methemoglobinemia subsection of PRECAUTIONS).


The terminal elimination half-life of lidocaine from the plasma following IV administration is approximately 65 to 150 minutes (mean 110, ±24 SD, n=13). More than 98% of an absorbed dose of lidocaine can be recovered in the urine as metabolites or parent drug. The systemic clearance is 10 to 20 mL/min/kg (mean 13, ±3 SD, n=13). The elimination half-life of prilocaine is approximately 10 to 150 minutes (mean 70, ±48 SD, n=13). The systemic clearance is 18 to 64 mL/min/kg (mean 38, ±15 SD, n=13). During intravenous studies, the elimination half-life of lidocaine was statistically significantly longer in elderly patients (2.5 hours) than in younger patients (1.5 hours). No studies are available on the intravenous pharmacokinetics of prilocaine in elderly patients.


Some pharmacokinetic (PK) data are available in infants (1 month to <2 years old) and children (2 to <12 years old). One PK study was conducted in 9 full-term neonates (mean age: 7 days and mean gestational age: 38.8 weeks). The study results show that neonates had comparable plasma lidocaine and prilocaine concentrations and blood methemoglobin concentrations as those found in previous pediatric PK studies and clinical trials. There was a tendency towards an increase in methemoglobin formation. However, due to assay limitations and very little amount of blood that could be collected from neonates, large variations in the above reported concentrations were found.

Special Populations

No specific PK studies were conducted. The half-life may be increased in cardiac or hepatic dysfunction. Prilocaine's half-life also may be increased in hepatic or renal dysfunction since both of these organs are involved in prilocaine metabolism.

Clinical Studies

EMLA Cream application in adults prior to IV cannulation or venipuncture was studied in 200 patients in four clinical studies in Europe. Application for at least 1 hour provided significantly more dermal analgesia than placebo cream or ethyl chloride. EMLA Cream was comparable to subcutaneous lidocaine, but was less efficacious than intradermal lidocaine. Most patients found EMLA Cream treatment preferable to lidocaine infiltration or ethyl chloride spray.

EMLA Cream was compared with 0.5% lidocaine infiltration prior to skin graft harvesting in one open label study in 80 adult patients in England. Application of EMLA Cream for 2 to 5 hours provided dermal analgesia comparable to lidocaine infiltration.

EMLA Cream application in children was studied in seven non-US studies (320 patients) and one US study (100 patients). In controlled studies, application of EMLA Cream for at least 1 hour with or without presurgical medication prior to needle insertion provided significantly more pain reduction than placebo. In children under the age of seven years, EMLA Cream was less effective than in older children or adults.

EMLA Cream was compared with placebo in the laser treatment of facial port-wine stains in 72 pediatric patients (ages 5 to 16). EMLA Cream was effective in providing pain relief during laser treatment.

EMLA Cream alone was compared with EMLA Cream followed by lidocaine infiltration and lidocaine infiltration alone prior to cryotherapy for the removal of male genital warts. The data from 121 patients demonstrated that EMLA Cream was not effective as a sole anesthetic agent in managing the pain from the surgical procedure. The administration of EMLA Cream prior to lidocaine infiltration provided significant relief of discomfort associated with local anesthetic infiltration and thus was effective in the overall reduction of pain from the procedure only when used in conjunction with local anesthetic infiltration of lidocaine.

EMLA Cream was studied in 105 full term neonates (gestational age: 37 weeks) for blood drawing and circumcision procedures. When considering the use of EMLA Cream in neonates, the primary concerns are the systemic absorption of the active ingredients and the subsequent formation of methemoglobin. In clinical studies performed in neonates, the plasma levels of lidocaine, prilocaine, and methemoglobin were not reported in a range expected to cause clinical symptoms.

Local dermal effects associated with EMLA Cream application in these studies on intact skin included paleness, redness and edema and were transient in nature (see ADVERSE REACTIONS).

The application of EMLA Cream on genital mucous membranes for minor, superficial surgical procedures (e.g., removal of condylomata acuminata) was studied in 80 patients in a placebo-controlled clinical trial (60 patients received EMLA Cream and 20 patients received placebo). EMLA Cream (5 to 10 g) applied between 1 and 75 minutes before surgery, with a median time of 15 minutes, provided effective local anesthesia for minor superficial surgical procedures. The greatest extent of analgesia, as measured by VAS scores, was attained after 5 to 15 minutes’ application. The application of EMLA Cream to genital mucous membranes as pretreatment for local anesthetic infiltration was studied in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study in 44 female patients (21 patients received EMLA Cream and 23 patients received placebo) scheduled for infiltration prior to a surgical procedure of the external vulva or genital mucosa. EMLA Cream applied to the genital mucous membranes for 5 to 10 minutes resulted in adequate topical anesthesia for local anesthetic injection.

Individualization Of Dose

The dose of EMLA Cream that provides effective analgesia depends on the duration of the application over the treated area.

All pharmacokinetic and clinical studies employed a thick layer of EMLA Cream (1 to 2 g/10 cm2). The duration of application prior to venipuncture was 1 hour. The duration of application prior to taking split thickness skin grafts was 2 hours. A thinner application has not been studied and may result in less complete analgesia or a shorter duration of adequate analgesia.

The systemic absorption of lidocaine and prilocaine is a side effect of the desired local effect. The amount of drug absorbed depends on surface area and duration of application. The systemic blood levels depend on the amount absorbed and patient size (weight) and the rate of systemic drug elimination. Long duration of application, large treatment area, small patients, or impaired elimination may result in high blood levels. The systemic blood levels are typically a small fraction (1/20 to 1/36) of the blood levels that produce toxicity. Table 2 below gives maximum recommended doses, application areas and application times for infants and children.

For Infants and Children Based on Application to Intact Skin

Age and Body Weight Requirements Maximum Total Dose of EMLA Cream Maximum Application Area** Maximum Application Time
0 up to 3 months or < 5 kg 1 g 10 cm2 1 hour
3 up to 12 months and > 5 kg 2 g 20 cm2 4 hours
1 to 6 years and > 10 kg 10 g 100 cm2 4 hours
7 to 12 years and > 20 kg 20 g 200 cm2 4 hours
Please note: If a patient greater than 3 months old does not meet the minimum weight requirement, the maximum total dose of EMLA Cream should be restricted to that which corresponds to the patient’s weight.
* These are broad guidelines for avoiding systemic toxicity in applying EMLA Cream to patients with normal intact skin and with normal renal and hepatic function.
** For more individualized calculation of how much lidocaine and prilocaine may be absorbed, physicians can use the following estimates of lidocaine and prilocaine absorption for children and adults:
The estimated mean (±SD) absorption of lidocaine is 0.045 (±0.016) mg/cm2/hr.
The estimated mean (±SD) absorption of prilocaine is 0.077 (±0.036) mg/cm2/hr.

An I.V. antiarrhythmic dose of lidocaine is 1 mg/kg (70 mg/70 kg) and gives a blood level of about 1 μg/mL. Toxicity would be expected at blood levels above 5 μg/mL. Smaller areas of treatment are recommended in a debilitated patient, a small child or a patient with impaired elimination. Decreasing the duration of application is likely to decrease the analgesic effect.

Medication Guide


Inform patients that use of local anesthetics may cause methemoglobinemia, a serious condition that must be treated promptly. Advise patients or caregivers to stop use and seek immediate medical attention if they or someone in their care experience the following signs or symptoms: pale, gray, or blue colored skin (cyanosis); headache; rapid heart rate; shortness of breath; lightheadedness; or fatigue.

When EMLA Cream is used, the patient should be aware that the production of dermal analgesia may be accompanied by the block of all sensations in the treated skin. For this reason, the patient should avoid inadvertent trauma to the treated area by scratching, rubbing, or exposure to extreme hot or cold temperatures until complete sensation has returned.

EMLA Cream should not be applied near the eyes or on open wounds.

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