Treatment of hand infections using WALANT -when the anesthesiologist is not available : a retrospective cohort study

Backround: The aim of this study was to determine, if Wide Awake Local Anesthesia No Tourniquet (WALANT) can be used as an alternative method of providing anesthesia in management of deep infections of the hand. Since the advent of WALANT in 2003, infections of the hand have been regarded as a contraindication to its use. Occasional shortage of anesthesiologic manpower, especially during busy call hours and the current COVID-19 pandemic can lead to delay of treatment where urgent surgery is needed, to prevent progress of an infection, that can result in severe morbidity. Methods: In the period from 2015 to 2020, 16 patients with various infections of the hand underwent 17 operations using WALANT in a Hand Trauma and Replantation Center (HTRC) in Germany. Retrospective cohort analysis of their operation reports, with emphasis on location of infection, time and duration of the operation, intraoperative incidents and complications were carried out. We also evaluated the need for revision surgery or necessity to convert to general anesthesia and factors causing delay till the time of surgery. Results: No case of inadequate analgesia, the need to convert to general anesthesia, ischemic events or cardiovascular complications with the use of the WALANT solution containing adrenaline and lidocaine in the treatment of deep tissue infections. The highest priority of limb preservation was ensured as no patient progressed to amputation of a digit or the hand. There was a statistically significant difference (p≤0.01) in delay from the time of admission until surgery of up to 9h24 m (SD±3h34 m) during the week and 4h10 m (SD±2h28 m) during the weekend.Conclusion: The status of infection as an absolute contraindication to the use of WALANT should be revised.Especially when human resources are limited, WALANT is an adequate technique to enable quick anesthesia for urgent treatment to prevent progression of hand infections.


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