The vasodilator properties of lidocaine are believed to be due mainly to the inhibition of action potentials via sodium channel blocking in vasoconstrictor sympathetic nerves. However, mechanisms involving the vascular endothelium may also play a role, and in this study we investigated the potential influences of nitric oxide release, the cyclo-oxygenase pathway and the beta-adrenoceptors of vascular smooth muscle. Laser Doppler imaging was used to measure microvascular blood flow responses to intradermal injection of lidocaine 2%, with or without the addition of preservatives, in eight healthy, male volunteers. Co-injection of the nitric-oxide-synthase inhibitor Nomega-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester caused a 60% reduction in the response after about 20 min, and this reduction was enhanced with the lidocaine solution containing the preservatives methylhydroxybenzoate and propylhydroxybenzoate. No reduction in response was seen after blocking the cyclo-oxygenase or beta-adrenoceptor pathways. Nitric oxide release contributes to the vasoactivity of lidocaine in human skin.