A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

No operating room needed for many types of hand surgery

Surgery can cause a lot of anxiety. Until just a few years ago, even surgeries done on the hand or wrist required a full anesthetic and hospital stay. Now, hand surgeons are using a procedure that will get you in and out the same day. It’s called the WALANT technique, or Wide Awake Local Anesthesia No Tourniquet technique.

Photo of hands to describe hand surgery

If you need hand surgery, you might be able to skip the operating room.

WALANT technique

When the WALANT technique is used, patients are awake during the procedure with a local anesthetic used, no tourniquet needed. It’s revolutionized many aspects of surgery, including the need for an operating room.

“A lot of things we used to do in surgery, we can now do in office,” said Dr. Steven Taylor, orthopedic hand surgeon at Marshfield Clinic Health System. “We’re able to treat carpal tunnel, trigger finger, tendon repair and even some fractures in office instead of the surgical center.”

Using local anesthetic changes the entire process for the patient from pre-operation to recovery.

Pre-operation

Before most surgeries, patients are told to avoid any of their typical medications. This can be concerning for anyone who needs medications to treat any condition.

“Preparing for the procedure is so much easier,” Dr. Taylor said. “They can stay on their normal medications, which provides less disruption in the patient’s daily medication needs.”

During surgery

Everything about the surgical procedure is different for the patient.

“They’re not going into an operating room surrounded by all these different people,” Dr. Taylor said. “They can stay in their clothes and have the procedure in my office.”

Depending on the complexity of the surgery, the minimally invasive procedure can take as little as 15 minutes. The cost of the procedure is also lowered significantly.

Recovery

“With the WALANT technique, patients are not needing as much post-operative pain medicine or physical check-ups,” Dr. Taylor said. “It’s very safe and there’s no increase in infection or complications.”

There is also less need for pain medication.

“We used to give double the amount of Vicodin or narcotics,” said Dr. Taylor. “We aren’t even offering those anymore for a lot of them.”

Just minutes after surgery, patients are able to drive themselves home. There’s no need to wait for anesthesia to wear off.

Recovery is also a much faster process because the incision is much less invasive and can heal more quickly.

Advancements in technology and the restraints caused by the pandemic have resulted in an overall better experience for the patient when it comes to hand surgery.

“It doesn’t have to be a scary thing to be treated,” Dr. Taylor said. “We can get them in a lot quicker, sometimes even same day and it’s less invasive, less pain and just better in the end.”

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  1. Jan 12, 2023
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