Is Hand Surgery Safe During the COVID-19 Pandemic?
For all aspects of healthcare, orthopedic hand surgery included, 2020 will forever be linked to COVID-19.
Why Elective Hand Surgery Was Impacted By COVID-19
Early in the pandemic the decision was made to focus nearly the entire healthcare system on the unprecedented spread of the COVID-19 virus. This meant making many changes to try to reduce the infection rate and buy scientists time to understand the wildly spreading virus. For many patients this meant delaying elective medical procedures, the kind of hand surgeries doctors at Proliance Hand, Wrist and Elbow Physicians routinely perform, to conserve limited personal protective equipment (PPE), surgical supplies and hospital beds. While our national efforts did in fact allow researchers and pharmaceutical companies time to make headway against the disease, it also created a general fear of healthcare which lingers to this day.
So, How Safe is Hand Surgery During the Pandemic?
We know exponentially more about COVID-19 now than we did in the spring of 2020 when elective surgery was postponed nearly nationwide. One study pertinent to hand surgery came from France and it suggested that orthopedic surgery can safely be performed due to our techniques to prevent the spread in the healthcare system. Bouche et al. performed a retrospective study of all patients admitted for emergent orthopedic surgery from March to May of 2020. This was during the time of the complete lockdown of the population due to rampant spread of the virus. Out of 199 individual procedures performed, only one person became infected with COVID-19 during the time they were admitted to the hospital for their preoperative, operative and post-operative care.
What Does This Mean for My Hand Surgery?
Educate yourself about the current COVID-19 precautions and be a well-informed user of the healthcare system. If your hand, wrist or elbow is causing pain and you have limited functionality, you should and deserve to be seen. If you experience a traumatic injury, please seek the appropriate care. Choose a provider that takes COVID-19 compliance seriously, one that follows all the required regulations for your region. This list should include, but is not limited to, the following best practices:
- Screening questions upon arrival to the office
- Masks required
- Temperature assessment
- Hand sanitizer available
- Room sterilization between patients
- Having surgical patients’ families wait off site instead of in the waiting room
- Perioperative elective surgery COVID testing
- Adequate telehealth options
How Can Proliance Hand, Wrist and Elbow Physicians Help?
Proliance Hand, Wrist and Elbow Physicians are committed to providing all of the above precautions and more. Since March 1st of 2020, we have performed over three thousand operations (3921 and counting as of this posting) at our Proliance East Side Surgery Center without any known transmission of COVID 19 to either patients nor staff. That success is in part due to our Proliance East Side Surgery Center that is offsite from any hospital and prevents any unnecessary exposure. We also recently added a 15-minute rapid COVID test onsite to make this process even easier and helps us carefully screen every surgical patient prior to their operation. Our surgeons and staff have been among some of the first in the state to be vaccinated, per Washington State guidelines, as we continue our efforts to best protect you and do our part to combat COVID-19.
To make an appointment please contact our staff at any of our five convenient Eastside locations.
Bonus Content: Listen to Dr. Galle talk to Shannon O’Kelley (from KOMO Radio News IRG Health Talk) about his transition to the Great PNW and Proliance Surgeons, his interest in hand surgery, and hear more about how PHWE is handling COVID-19 to protect you and your family!
Stay tuned for more photos and updates on our efforts to provide the best upper extremity care on the Eastside!
Samuel E. Galle, M.D. is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with subspecialty fellowship training in conditions of the hand and upper extremity. He has published numerous peer-reviewed articles and surgical technique videos. He lives in Kirkland, WA with his wife, two kids and one especially spoiled Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.