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The COVID-19 pandemic rapidly impacted the delivery of hand surgery services throughout the UK and Europe; from triage to treatment. Our aim was to assess the impact on management of common hand trauma injuries to inform future service delivery and research. The Reconstructive Surgery Trials Network led a service evaluation during the first wave of COVID-19 in 2020. Data was collected on hand injury management during the COVID-19 pandemic and was compared to the management clinicians would have delivered prior. Across 35 hand surgery units, 2540 patients with hand trauma were included. There was an increase of between 3% and 7% in non-operative management of injuries, apart from flexor tendon injuries where management remained unchanged. Cases triaged by a consultant doubled, with a 22% increase in the see-and-treat model. There was a move to operating in low-resource settings; a 13% increase in the use of minor operating theatres and 10% in clinic rooms. Use of WALANT, absorbable sutures, and remote follow-up also increased by 16%, 24%, and between 11% and 25%, respectively. The reported 30-day complication rate was 3.2%, with a surgical site infection rate of 1.8%. The pandemic led to rapid change in many aspects of hand trauma care. It was the impetus for increased out-of-theatre operating, use of local anaesthetic, and more non-operative management of injuries, without an increase in complication rate. Further research needs to assess the clinical and cost-effectiveness of these changes to ensure that COVID-19 is a catalyst for a modern, evidence-based, and environmentally sustainable delivery of hand trauma services.

Original publication




Journal article


J plast reconstr aesthet surg

Publication Date





258 - 265


COVID-19, Coronavirus, Hand surgery, Hand trauma, Service evaluation