SALISBURY, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – A surgeon from the Salisbury VA Medical Center came to the South Charlotte VA to perform their first wide-awake hand surgery Monday morning.
Dr. Jeffrey Baker, Chief of Orthopedics at the Salisbury VA, performs about 10 awake hand surgeries at the Salisbury VA every Friday. He says he now plans to travel to the Charlotte VA once per month to offer more veterans the opportunity for the minimally-invasive procedures. He is one of the only VA hand surgeons to service the 90,000 veterans who utilize the Charlotte, Salisbury, and Kernersville VAs.
Wide awake hand surgery doesn’t really feel like surgery at all. Patients are typically in and out of the medical center within 30 minutes.
“They come in, we do the procedure, and they go home,” said Dr. Baker. “They don’t need a drier, they don’t need anesthesia, they don’t need antibiotics for the most part.”
The Salisbury VA reports more than one-third of the patients who receive awake hand surgeries at Salisbury come from the Charlotte area. Hand surgeries like trigger finger releases, Carpal Tunnel surgery, and Ganglion removals can all be done wide awake.
“Patients preferred to come to Salisbury rather than come down here to Charlotte because I was doing it wide awake, and it was a simpler surgery for them,” said Dr. Baker.
But not every veteran has the resources to make the trek from Charlotte to Salisbury, so Dr. Baker decided to bring his surgical skills to the Charlotte VA. The first patient to receive an awake hand surgery at the Charlotte VA was Navy Veteran Michael Grier, who came in for a trigger finger release.
“It’s convenient. For one, I’m disabled anyway. I can get around fine, but it’s hard finding someone to take you and then drive you back,” said Grier.
Access isn’t just an issue for the veterans, but it can be an issue for the doctors who need to book limited spaces in the OR. By doing the wide-awake surgeries, they can bypass the OR altogether.
“Instead of waiting a number of weeks for surgery, often times we’re able to do them that week or the week afterwards even,” said Dr. Baker.
Dr. Baker anticipates he will complete nearly 400 hand surgeries this year. His next goal is to bring wide-awake hand surgeries to Kernersville.