Therefore, it is not surprising that there is a paucity of data and consensus regarding nail surgery and aftercare. Perhaps due to lack of training and up to date literature, many dermatologists often hesitate to perform necessary nail interventions.3,4 A delay in performing nail surgery may have devastating consequences particularly in cases of delayed diagnosis of malignancies.5
The purpose of this review is to analyze the current literature on nail surgery and dispel prevalent myths. We aim to solve common barriers that dermatologists may experience when performing nail surgery.
Myth: Epinephrine is contraindicated for nail surgery. Truth: Epinephrine is not necessary for many nail surgical procedures, especially when using a tourniquet, but it is safe to use.
Nail surgery is typically performed in an outpatient setting with local anesthesia. The nail unit is highly vascularized, and a bloodless field is necessary for procedures. Epinephrine has several benefits when used in conjunction with local anesthetics, including hemostasis, prolonged anesthesia, reduction in anesthetic quantity, decreased systemic anesthetic absorption, and reduced need for a tourniquet for hemostasis.6–8
However, there has been controversy surrounding the use of epinephrine for the digits, given the theoretical risk of ischemia and necrosis. Historically, it has been contraindicated based on speculations and isolated cases.9,10 In a review of digital injection cases 1880-2000, there were 48 cases of digital gangrene and necrosis with local anesthesia, with only 21 involving use of epinephrine and no cases involving the combination of lidocaine and epinephrine.10 In addition, since epinephrine concentrations, hot soaks, tourniquets, tight dressings, and co-morbidities varied, necrosis was most likely multifactorial, and not solely attributed to epinephrine.10
Furthermore, there is sufficient evidence supporting use of epinephrine with local anesthesia for digital surgery. In a prospective study of finger/hand cases injected with lidocaine (n = 2,719) or bupivacaine (n = 391) and epinephrine (1:100,000 or less), there was no infarction, skin necrosis, or tissue loss.11 Similarly, in a retrospective chart review of 1,111 digit/hand surgery cases with lidocaine with epinephrine (1:100,000), there were no cases of gangrene.12