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The People Who Can’t Go Numb at the Dentist’s

To Lori Lemon, the doctors all seemed flabbergasted. She had come in to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, to have a lipoma – a growth of soft fatty tissue under the skin – removed from her elbow. She needed to have the area around the lump numbed for the procedure, but that was proving inexplicably difficult.

“All the ways and all the different medications that they had at their disposal – none of them worked,” she says. Steven Clendenen, an anaesthesiologist at the clinic, confirms her story. “The nerves were flooded with local anaesthetic and at the time it didn’t work,” he recalls. Her physicians might have been surprised, but Lemon wasn’t. She’d had this problem, local anaesthetic resistance, for as long as she could remember. The first time she remembers it coming up was decades ago at the dentists, when she was about seven.