Arnica montana has a history of medicinal use dating back to the 1500s. Ever searching for ways to improve patient recovery (and prompted by effective product marketing), we’ve seen Arnica become fairly well accepted as an option for reducing post-surgical swelling and bruising. But does it actually work? This is the question that prompted van Exsel et al. to design and perform their randomized, placebo-controlled trial that was published in the July issue of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery.
The researchers randomized 136 bilateral upper blepharoplasty patients into two study arms: One received arnica ointment 10% and the other a placebo ointment. Patients in both arms had a treatment and non-treatment side designated. The periorbital area of the treatment side received either arnica or placebo ointment, while the non-treatment side received no ointment and served as an internal control. Overall periorbital appearance was the primary endpoint and assessed by a medical and nonmedical panel using light photography after 3 days, 7 days and 6 weeks. Secondary endpoints included swelling, pain, ecchymosis, erythema and patient satisfaction with recovery and outcome.
Does Arnica Work?
The study found no significant differences between arnica and placebo based on the panel’s assessment and nor did any of the secondary endpoints differ between arnica and placebo. Furthermore, there was no difference in outcome between treated and untreated eyelids in ether the arnica or placebo groups.
The researchers' conclusion: “…topical arnica ointment after upper blepharoplasty does not improve postoperative outcome.”
Van exsel DC, Pool SM, Van uchelen JH, Edens MA, Van der lei B, Melenhorst WB. Arnica Ointment 10% Does Not Improve Upper Blepharoplasty Outcome: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2016;138(1):66-73.