Hand surgery helps people overcome pain and loss of function. Hand surgery can be done for problems of the hand, wrist, and forearm. A hand surgeon provides non-surgical care whenever possible but receives special training that allows him to perform hand surgery when non-invasive treatments fail. Non-surgical options include occupational therapy, injections, splinting, and bracing.
A hand surgeon may perform open surgery, where he makes a large incision in the skin to expose the tissues and areas of concern. In some cases, specially trained hand surgeons perform endoscopic procedures. During endoscopic hand surgery, the surgeon makes a very small incision where a camera and small tools help the surgeon operate.
A hand surgeon performs simple procedures in his office and more involved surgeries at outpatient ambulatory surgery centers. Outpatient endoscopic procedures are associated with very little pain and most patients return to work soon after the procedure. The more complex operations may require longer recovery times, time off work, and pain medication. Physical and occupational therapy optimizes the results of hand surgery and may reduce recovery time.
Millions of people in the United States suffer from hand conditions that prevent them from working, taking care of family, or engaging in hobbies. The American College of Rheumatology estimates that the number of people suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome alone ranges from 4 – 10 million Americans.
Conditions that Hand Surgery Treats
Hand surgery restores function lost from a medical condition, birth defect, bone fracture, or other major injury. A surgeon may perform hand surgery to correct certain medical conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, Dupuytren’s contracture, DeQuervain’s tendonitis, trigger finger, Ganglion cysts, and basilar joint arthritis.
A hand surgeon may perform endoscopic surgery just below the base of a patient’s palm to treat carpal tunnel syndrome, which causes numbness, tingling, and weakness. Carpal tunnel syndrome is the result of swollen tendons that pinch the median nerve that runs from the elbow to the hand; cubital tunnel causes pain, numbness and tingling as the result of a pinched ulnar nerve at the elbow.
DeQuervain’s tendonitis occurs when tendons near the thumb become irritated, swollen, and inflamed. The operative goal of these conditions is to create more room to free-up the inflamed and irritated tendons and nerves. Surgery can correct a trigger finger, a condition where a finger locks in a bent position before suddenly straightening with a snap. A finger can sometimes lock in position without releasing. Surgery releases locked fingers, restoring function almost immediately.
A hand surgeon may operate to remove Ganglion cysts, which are non-cancerous lumps near the hand and wrist. Patients with basilar joint arthritis may need thumb surgery to restore pain-free function. Dupuytren’s contracture is an uncommon condition where the tissue beneath the palm thickens and tightens. Even though this condition is not painful, it can cause fingers to curl. Sometimes this condition interferes with a person’s ability to grasp objects or place their hands in their pockets. To correct Dupuytren’s contracture, the hand surgeon divides or removes the thickened bands of tissue to help restore finger motion.
Hand surgery helps restore function in the hands of people suffering from a wide variety of conditions. Consult with a hand specialist near you to find out if hand surgery is right for you.