ALTOONA - More than 500,000 Americans have carpel tunnel surgery every year to relieve pain and numbness in the wrist and hand. In the conventional procedure, patients wear a tourniquet on the upper arm to prevent bleeding. But a local surgeon's technique spares his patients the discomfort and possible safety concerns involved with that method.
Hand Surgeon Dr. Andrew Gurman prepares to inject Geary Levan with a combination drug before carpel tunnel surgery. The medication contains lidocaine to numb the area and epinephrine to constrict the blood vessels and prevent bleeding during surgery.
"So, the patients are very comfortable you can operate for hours, if necessary, doing local procedures under local anesthesia," Dr. Gurman says.
The palm starts to turn white, a sign the blood is constricted. The local anesthetic means Geary will be able to stay awake and even watch the surgery.
Dr Gurman says avoiding general anesthesia helps patients with chronic conditions. Those with diabetes don't have to fast and disrupt their blood sugar. People with high blood pressure can continue to take their medicine. And patients on blood thinners can remain on their treatments, without fear of stroke from a blood clot, or bleeding during surgery.
"That opens up a whole world of possibilities for hand surgeries," he says.
Geary says he did watch his surgery, and he enjoyed it.
Dr. Gurman says he's done more than a thousand of hand surgeries, this way.
It was a big day for Geary, who was also celebrating his 55th wedding anniversary.