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Do They Put You to Sleep for Hand Surgery?

July 18, 2021

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The hands play an essential role in our daily lives. When a serious injury damages the hands, it can threaten quality of life. Hand surgery can preserve hand function when a serious fracture occurs as well as alleviate pain associated with nerve and tendon issues.

Patients often have many questions about surgery. One that's commonly asked at Orthopaedic Specialists of Austin is if they put you to sleep for hand surgery. Our Austin, TX, orthopaedic surgeons explain what techniques are available to patients for pain control during surgery.

General Anesthesia and Hand Surgery

General anesthesia, commonly referred to as being "put to sleep," is a technique used to keep a patient comfortable and pain-free during surgery.

General anesthesia may be used during some hand surgeries depending on the specifications of the surgery as well as the patient's needs. For example, general anesthesia may be preferred if the surgery is expected to take a long time to perform.

General anesthesia is not without risks and side effects. Although rare, serious risks include stroke and heart attack. Side effects are more common and include nausea, sleepiness, and a sore throat. As a result, some patients may wish to avoid undergoing general anesthesia when having hand surgery.

Local Anesthesia and Hand Surgery

Some hand surgeries can be performed under local anesthesia in a technique called WALANT, which means "wide awake local anesthesia no tourniquet."

The WALANT technique uses a combination of lidocaine for its numbing properties and epinephrine for its ability to control bleeding by causing the blood vessels to vasoconstrict, or tighten.

WALANT may be used for hand surgeries such as tendon repair, trigger finger release, and carpal tunnel release.

Benefits of Local Anesthesia

Although it may seem intimidating to undergo surgery while awake and under local anesthesia, it has many benefits over general anesthesia for our Austin patients.

Patients recover faster from local anesthesia compared to general anesthesia and experience fewer side effects, most notably no nausea, as is common with general anesthesia.

The WALANT technique is often associated with less pain since it does not require a tourniquet around the upper arm to control bleeding during surgery. In addition, it's possible to use the WALANT technique on patients who may not be able to tolerate general anesthesia for certain health reasons.

Do You Need to Be Put to Sleep for Hand Surgery?

Whether or not you need to be put under general anesthesia for your hand surgery will depend on the type of surgery you require, your personal health, and other factors considered by your surgeon.

Patients undergoing surgery for tendon repair or carpal tunnel may be good candidates for local anesthesia but more complex surgeries involving the bones and correcting fractures may be best suited to general anesthesia. At the Orthopaedic Specialists of Austin, our surgeons can determine what option is best for you.

Schedule a Consultation

For more information about anesthesia and hand surgery, or to find out which treatment is right for you, call our office in Austin at (512) 476-2830 to schedule a consultation.