How innovative surgical preparation is saving time & delighting patients — 4 takeaways

Surgeons and surgical leaders know: In the operating room, time is money. As healthcare organizations seek to drive efficiency, OR workflows have emerged as a key focus area — as well as an opportunity to improve patient outcomes and satisfaction.

During an October Becker's Hospital Review webinar sponsored by Cardinal Health, two experts discussed the challenges of managing hair during surgical procedures. They also shared what inspired them to develop an innovative tool, the Stray Away Hair Management Drape, to drive efficiency and better outcomes.

The panelists were:

  • Pamela Tan, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon in solo private practice serving the Washington, D.C. area
  • Alexandra Tilt, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon in private practice in Virginia Beach, Va.

Four key takeaways were:

1. Preparing hair for surgical procedures is challenging and time consuming.

To prepare patients for craniofacial procedures, multiple steps are required to ensure the patient's hair will not interfere with the surgical site. "Trying to keep hair out of the surgical area has been a dilemma for any surgeon who's had to operate in a hair-bearing field while keeping the drapes in position," Dr. Tan said.

Current options for keeping hair at bay include shaving hair at the surgical site, stapling drapes directly into the patient's skin, creating a hair wrap with an available drape, sealing drapes with surgical tape or braiding hair and securing it with small rubber bands. These steps add significant time to the procedure — according to Dr. Tilt, up to 20 minutes at the beginning of the case — when the patient is already under anesthesia. And sometimes, in the case of stapling a drape to the patient's skin, the preparation itself can result in a small wound.

The patient's hair must be managed when the procedure is completed, as well. "When you have something like drapes or towels, something that's not impermeable, you end up with a lot of hair and debris, as well as irrigation on the hair," Dr. Tilt said. "By the end of the case, the patient's hair is a total mess, and you can't send them to recovery like that, so you spend another 10, 15, 20 minutes washing the patient's hair. In OR time, that's expensive."

2. The Stray Away Hair Management Drape is a unique tool developed by surgeons for surgeons.

The tedious steps and excessive time spent preparing patients' hair spurred Dr. Tilt and Dr. Tan to take action.

"This was really an idea born out of necessity," Dr. Tan said, explaining a time when she and Dr. Tilt were operating together on a pediatric case, removing a lesion from a child's scalp. Stitching up the wound was challenging — from the first incision to the final closure, she said, the child's hair kept getting in the wound. It was a small incision, but the suturing process took a lot of time.

While shaving the area completely could have eliminated the hassle they experienced, Dr. Tan said this isn't a route most surgeons want to take if they can avoid it. "I think you can imagine, most people would prefer to keep their hair intact as much as possible," she said. "It's psychologically distressing for people to lose hair."

Without a readily available solution, they were inspired to create their own drape, Dr. Tilt said.

"As surgeons, we are on the front lines, and a lot of drapes on the market and medical inventions tend to be created by people who aren't necessarily in the operating room," Dr. Tilt said. "So we have that unique perspective of being in the OR and dealing with these things on a daily basis. We know what's going to work and what doesn't."


3. The innovative drape combines multiple components into one, making it more efficient and convenient for surgeons.

The Stray Away Hair Management Drape — the first of its kind — is designed to minimize hair in the surgical field, reducing patient preparation time for craniofacial procedures. The drape features three unique anchoring points, linear edge tape, hair Velcro and stabilizing clips to secure the patient's hair away from the surgical site. These features not only save time before and after surgery but also reduce the risk of infection.

"Comparing this drape to the other protocols we've discussed, it combines everything into one," Dr. Tan said. She explained how the all-in-one factor eliminates the need for multiple steps like grabbing the staple gun, getting surgical or dermatological tape or strips, or locating rubber bands. "Everything is put into one component where you can apply it and have it work the way you would like to," Dr. Tan said.

4. The Stray Away Drape not only improves patient comfort and aesthetics but also enhances surgical outcomes.

The streamlined drape design Dr. Tilt and Dr. Tan devised improves patient satisfaction by reducing the need to shave or clip hair and keeping the patient clean post-surgery. There are equal benefits to surgeons and hospitals, too.

"Surgeons love efficiency," Dr. Tilt said. "Saving that time before and after cases can leave time for another surgery that day or time to do something else. Hospital systems would do well to notice that and use this to improve the efficiency of their OR, reducing time on cases."

Dr. Tilt reiterated the significance of reduced risk of infection. "Hair is not sterile," she said, explaining how surgeons wash patients' hair before procedures, but when hair gets in the field, it adds infection risk — especially in major craniofacial procedures involving plates, screws or other implantable devices. "Infection is a big concern, especially for patients with comorbidities. We believe the Stray Away Drape can help reduce infection in that way as well."

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