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This article has been peer reviewed. It is the authors' final version prior to publication in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Volume 142, Issue 6, December 2018, Pages 1532-1538.

The published version is available at Copyright © 2018 by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons


BACKGROUND: Hand surgery under local anesthesia only has been used more frequently in recent years. The purpose of this study was to compare perioperative time and cost for carpal tunnel release performed under local anesthesia ("wide-awake local anesthesia no tourniquet," or WALANT) only to carpal tunnel release performed under intravenous sedation.

METHODS: A retrospective comparison of intraoperative (operating room) surgical time and postoperative (postanesthesia care unit) time for consecutive carpal tunnel release procedures performed under both intravenous sedation and wide-awake local anesthesia was undertaken. All operations were performed by the same surgeon using the same mini-open surgical technique. A cost analysis was performed by means of standardized anesthesia billing based on base units, time, and conversion rates.

RESULTS: There were no significant differences between the two groups in terms of total operative time, 28 minutes in the intravenous sedation group versus 26 minutes in the wide-awake local anesthesia group. Postanesthesia care unit times were significantly longer in the intravenous sedation group (84 minutes) compared to the wide-awake local anesthesia group (7 minutes). Depending on conversion rates used, a total of $139 to $432 was saved in each case performed with wide-awake local anesthesia by not using anesthesia services. In addition, a range of $1320 to $1613 was saved for the full episode of care, including anesthesia costs, operating room time, and postanesthesia care unit time for each patient undergoing wide-awake local anesthesia carpal tunnel release.

CONCLUSION: Carpal tunnel release surgery performed with the wide-awake local anesthesia technique offers significant reduction in cost for use of anesthesia and postanesthesia care unit resources.



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