COS Innovations: Wide-Awake Surgery Has Patients and Doctors Singing Its Praises

Richard A. Bernstein Posted September 26, 2018

“Often, we ask patients what kind of music they like to hear during surgery,” explains Dr. Richard A. Bernstein, an Orthopaedic Surgeon with” Connecticut Orthopaedics (CO). “I know most of the ’80s or ’90s music, even the oldies, so they start to sing, and we’ll sing along with them.”

While Dr. Bernstein does not suggest that singing along with patients is one of the advantages of Wide-Awake Surgery, he does cite it as evidence of a significant benefit: patient ease. “Before the surgery, patients save time and anxiety, because they do not have to go through a lot of complex visits and testing. Once the surgery is done, they can walk out comfortably, drive themselves home, and do the things they want for the remainder of the day.”

Wide Awake Surgery, which uses local anesthetics rather than putting a patient to sleep using general anesthesia, provides many benefits to patients. Reducing patient anxiety is certainly one benefit, but there are several others including lower costs and quicker recovery. Also, because the patient is awake, the doctor is able to communicate the progress of the surgery right while it is occurring – a level of doctor-patient communication that is not possible in surgeries using general anesthesia. Post-operative recovery is measured in minutes rather than hours and the patient can return to their normal day afterwards, which includes eating what they want right away which is another unique and welcomed patient benefit of this approach.

“I was watching an old Addams Family video on my iPad during the surgery,” remembers Robert Rattner, a patient of Dr. Bernstein, “and he started singing the theme song. Then everyone else in the operating room joined. How many times do you leave surgery laughing? Not very often.”

“I enjoy the Wide-Awake Surgery,” Dr. Bernstein notes. “We talk about things like their family, their job, things they like to do, and sometimes we sing. Trust me, you don’t want to hear me sing, but I think it’s a really good way for me to get to know my patients and for my patients to get to know me.”