The human hand is a marvelously flexible and complex construction. That very complexity and flexibility, however, can be threatened by injury, disease or degenerative conditions. To correct such problems, hand surgery may be required. Here’s some basic information about hand surgery, courtesy of the hand specialists at the Florida Hand Center.
Who Can Perform Hand Surgery?
The terms hand doctor, hand surgeon and hand specialist are usually used to describe an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in conditions of the hand. These physicians typically complete an additional period of training called a fellowship after they finish their orthopedic surgical residency. Fellowships may last from one to three years. Other surgical specialists like plastic surgeons may also perform certain kinds of hand surgery, like skin grafts, and some general surgeons also have special training in hand surgery.
Do I Need Hand Surgery?
Pain in the fingers, hand, wrist or forearm may be a signal that you need a hand specialist to assess the problem. With the exception of a significant deformity or a serious fracture, however, most hand surgeons will not necessarily recommend hand surgery as the first step. Like all surgery, there are risks involved, so if the condition can be solved in some other way (this is called conservative treatment), your doctor may recommend something like a splint or physical therapy. Hand doctors are trained in both surgical and non-surgical management. If those treatments are unsuccessful, surgery is usually the next step.
What Conditions Can be Treated With Hand Surgery?
Hand specialists usually perform hand surgery to repair and correct injuries or to treat degenerative conditions. A fracture in which bone is badly shattered or an injury that results in cuts to muscles, ligaments or blood vessels nearly always requires surgery. Rheumatoid arthritis can result in damaged, deformed joints that must be replaced with artificial joints to preserve hand function. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when there is too much pressure on the median nerve in the wrist; surgery can relieve the pressure.
What Do I Need to Know About the Procedures?
Many types of hand surgery are available. These include tendon and ligament repairs, joint replacements, internal fixation of a fracture with metal, and many others. In many cases, these procedures can be performed arthroscopically in an outpatient setting. An arthroscope is a very tiny camera on a long, flexible tube that can be inserted into the surgical area through a small incision. A second incision is used to insert the surgical tools. Arthroscopic surgery causes less trauma and usually has a shorter healing period. Of course, hand surgeries can also be performed with a larger open incision, and some conditions require this type of surgery.
The issue of hand surgery is complex, partly because there are so many conditions that may require surgical intervention. If you have questions or concerns and think you may need surgery, please contact us at the Florida Hand Center. Our hand specialists will be happy to assess your problem and make a recommendation.