Challenging the Dogma of Tourniquet Pressure Requirements for Upper Extremity Surgery

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Traditional teaching supports upper extremity tourniquet pressure to be set at 250 mm Hg. Complications have been associated with increased pressure and duration of tourniquet use. We hypothesized that there will be no significant difference in intraoperative variables between tourniquet pressures of 125, 150, 175, or 200 mm Hg as compared with the current practice of 250 mm Hg during mini-open carpal tunnel release.

Case Description

A retrospective review was conducted of patients undergoing open carpal tunnel release from June 2009 to June 2012. Those undergoing surgery with a tourniquet pressure of 250 mm Hg were compared with those with lower tourniquet pressures regarding their demographics, operative and anesthesia time, and whether the tourniquet pressure needed to be increased to 250 mm Hg during surgery.

Literature Review

A total of 432 patients underwent carpal tunnel release over the 3-year period. There were no differences with respect to patient demographics. There was no significant difference between operative or anesthesia time between different tourniquet pressure groups. There were no reported problems with breakthrough bleeding or difficulty with visualization of structures in any of the pressure groups. None of the patients with lower tourniquet pressures needed the tourniquet pressure to be adjusted during surgery.

Clinical Relevance

This study demonstrated that using lower tourniquet pressures had no effect on the operation for open carpal tunnel release including effect on operative or anesthesia time, breakthrough bleeding, or complications directly related to tourniquet pressures. Orthopedic surgeons may consider reducing tourniquet pressures during carpal tunnel release.

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