The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which causes COVID-19 illness, is mainly transmitted because of close contact with respiratory droplets and airborne particles. Aerosol-generating procedures during general anesthesia can increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission. An effective alternative to general anesthesia for upper limb orthopedic surgery is regional anesthesia (RA) using brachial plexus block.
Materials and Methods:
Seventy-eight patients who received a brachial plexus block for upper limb trauma and elective operations before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, from 2017 to 2020, were included in this study. A protocol was devised for patient positioning, draping and equipment positioning for each location group—shoulder and upper arm; elbow and forearm; and distal extremities.
RA was effective for upper limb surgery in 77 of 78 (98.7%) patients. Sixty-five patients (83.3%) were discharged the same day, with the average time from leaving the operating theater to discharge from hospital of 2.8 hours. No postoperative complications were recorded, and no patient nor staff member contracted COVID-19 infection 2 weeks after the operation.
We demonstrate the efficacy of awake RA for upper limb orthopedic procedures. We share our tips and tricks for implementing this into clinical practice and discuss the specific advantages of RA in the context of the COVID-19 global pandemic.