MEDIA RELEASES

Expert Anaesthesia Allows Surgery While Wide Awake

In recognition of National Anaesthesia Day on October 17, Northland District Health Board is sharing stories of patients who have benefited from anaesthesia during surgery. Regional anaesthesia is this year’s theme.

In August, Robert Danks of Mangawhai benefited from an anaesthetic in his arm so controlled that it allowed surgeons to operate on him while he was wide awake, cut into his tendons, fix a cord of skin which was bending Robert’s fingers, and take a thick skin graft from his arm and apply it to his hand.

Robert, 72, was given an axillary nerve block for the operation to relieve Dupuytren's contracture, which is a hand deformity affecting a layer of tissue lying under the skin of a person’s palm.

Robert was not suited to a general anaesthetic because of existing heart condition and Robert says he was told by his last surgeon that he would not survive another general anaesthetic.

For the operation on his hand, Robert says all he needed was the axillary block. This is a procedure in which anaesthesia is injected around a precise nerve in the axilla, near the armpit, to numb any one of several discrete areas of the hand and arm.

“The anaesthesia was pretty painless. Within 10-15 minutes the arm was numb,” Robert says. “I was wide awake during the surgery. They put a cover between my head and my arm so I couldn’t see what they were doing. I didn’t feel a thing.”

The anaesthetic allowed Robert’s hospital experience to be so quick and decisive that he was released within hours, and his hand regained sensation the following morning. “I went in for the operation at 3pm and I was out by 5 or 6pm,” he said. “I wasn’t drowsy at all after the anaesthetic.”

“It was less stress, definitely. They gave me Paracetamol and codeine afterward and I only needed those for a couple of days.”

“Now my finger is fairly straight, it’s coming along quite nicely.”

A district nurse will check Robert’s bandages three times a week but apart from that, his surgery was quick and literally painless – and all thanks to an expert anaesthetist.


Robert Danks


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