Objective. To determine 1) the performing of circumcision by medical specialty, gender, and years of practice; 2) the pattern of anesthetic use for this procedure; and 3) the reasons physicians cite for not using anesthesia.
Design. A total of 3066 questionnaires were received from a mailing to a representative sampling of physicians stratified by specialty and geographic location.
Results. Fifty-eight percent (1768) of the questionnaires were returned and interpretable from the following specialists: pediatricians (PEDs), 73% (n = 691); family practitioners (FPs), 52% (n = 464); and obstetricians (OBs), 51% (n = 623).
Of the respondents, 956 (54%) perform at least one circumcision per month (35% of PEDs; 60% of FPs; 70% of OBs). Of the physicians performing circumcisions, 45% use anesthesia (71% of PEDs; 56% of FPs; 25% of OBs). Of physicians using anesthesia, 85% use dorsal penile nerve block.
A significantly higher percentage of male physicians (57%) are performing circumcisions than are females (45%), but there was no difference in the percent using anesthesia. Recently trained PEDs and FPs were more likely to use anesthetics than were their older colleagues, but OB use of pain relief was independent of their practice longevity. Physicians in the western states were significantly more likely to use anesthesia than were other physicians from the rest of the United States.
Respondents who did not use anesthesia cited “concern over adverse drug effects” (54%) followed by “procedure does not warrant anesthesia” (44%) as the most common explanations.
Conclusions. A substantial number of PEDs are performing circumcisions, and they are most likely to use anesthesia (71%), followed by FPs (56%), then OBs (25%). With recent recognition of the importance of pain reduction in neonatal procedures and the lack of substantiated contraindications to newborn anesthetic use, additional education of current practitioners, residents, and parents is required to increase the use of anesthesia for circumcision.