Word Watch: verbicaine

Group of surgeons at work operating in surgical theatre

Credit: megaflopp/Adobe Stock

Canadian Word Spy Paul McFedries has flagged”verbicaine” as a new term that has entered the medical lexicon.

It comes from “verbal” and “-caine” (anesthetic), and refers to “soothing words used to calm or distract a patient who is awake during a surgical procedure.”

The earliest use McFedries found was in 1996, in a document prepared by the U.S. Agency for International Development on  “Establishing Postabortion Care Services in Nepal” (PDF), which also provides the synonym “vocal local”:
For example, in order to replace general anesthesia with the use of non-narcotic analgesics and only local anesthesia for MVA [manual vacuum aspiration], all members of the PAC [post-abortion care] team—not just the physicians—needed to be skilled in explaining MVA to the patient and be able to provide “vocal local” or “verbacaine” during the procedure.~TM

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