What to Expect During Wide-Awake Hand or Wrist Surgery

What to Expect During Wide-Awake Hand or Wrist Surgery

You rely on your hands for nearly everything you do. And when pain or dysfunction stops them from working like they used to, you notice very quickly.

Your hands are made up of a complex network of muscles, tendons, and delicate bones. A wide variety of hand injuries, wrist injuries, and other conditions can affect your hand function and your quality of life, but the thought of hand surgery can be scary.

Many people avoid hand or wrist surgery because they’re worried about complications, increased pain, and long recovery times. However, wide-awake surgery often reduces pain, reduces complications, and shortens recovery times.

Kristopher Downing, MD, of Upper Extremity Specialists in Chula Vista and La Jolla, California, is highly trained in the latest hand and wrist surgical techniques. If you need surgery, read on to find out how wide-awake surgery, or WALANT (wide-awake local anesthesia, no tourniquet), works.

Conditions wide-awake surgery can treat

Dr. Downing specializes in diagnosing and treating hand and wrist conditions that limit your life. Whether you have a chronic condition or you’ve suffered an acute injury, wide-awake surgery could be a treatment option for you.

We recommend wide-awake surgery to treat many hand and wrist conditions, including:

If you have another type of hand or wrist injury, Dr. Downing can let you know if wide-awake surgery could help you.

Benefits of wide-awake surgery

One big benefit of wide-awake surgery is that you aren’t sedated, which thereby eliminates any of the potential risks of being sedated, such as temporary vomiting and nausea.

Another benefit is you’re able to give your surgeon immediate feedback. The structures of the hand and wrist are extremely delicate, and traditional surgery isn’t always successful the first time. Wide-awake surgery gives you the opportunity to flex your hand and fingers before your incisions are closed. If any adjustments are needed, our team can continue working and reduce the need for follow-up surgeries.

Furthermore, you may be able to have a shorter recovery time. While you may experience some pain and swelling as your hand heals, the symptoms are usually milder than when recovering from traditional hand or wrist surgery. And patients are usually able to get back to their activities faster.

Performing wide-awake surgery

As the name of the technique implies, wide-awake hand surgery doesn’t involve sedation or general anesthesia. You remain awake and alert during the procedure, but we do use local anesthesia to keep you comfortable.

In most cases, wide-awake surgery involves a combination of lidocaine and epinephrine. Lidocaine numbs the treatment area and blocks pain, while epinephrine prevents bleeding.

We make small injections around the treatment area and check to make sure the area is numb. Then, our surgeons make several small incisions in your wrist or hand to access the tissues that are causing you problems.

We can repair fractures, release tendons, and perform a variety of other soft tissue procedures in your hands and wrists in wide-awake surgery. As the procedure progresses, we may ask you to move your fingers so we can assess and adjust the repairs.

Once your range of motion is satisfactory, we close the incisions with stitches or surgical glue and bandage the area. Since no sedation is required, you’re free to go home shortly after your procedure is complete.

To learn more about wide-awake surgery and to see if it could help you, book an appointment online or over the phone with Upper Extremity Specialists today.

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