Choosing a Hand Surgeon

Rheumatoid arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendon injuries, fractures and contractures – any of these conditions may necessitate a visit to a hand surgeon. One question many people have is how to choose a hand surgeon. Here’s some information that may help, courtesy of the Florida Hand Center.

What’s a Hand Surgeon?

In your search for the right doctor, you may hear the terms hand surgeon, hand doctor or hand specialist. All of these mean the same thing: a physician who has completed additional training in surgery and medical management of the hand and wrist. Hand surgeons may be orthopedic surgeons, general surgeons or plastic surgeons. Initially trained as either doctors of medicine (MD) or doctors of osteopathy (DO), these physicians must complete four years of medical school and at least four years of residency (for all of these surgeons, it’s five years). Then they finish off their training with a minimum of one year in a specialty fellowship that concentrates on the hand and wrist.

What Do Hand Surgeons Do?

Beyond the obvious answer – hand surgery – a hand surgeon might perform many different procedures. The hand is a complex structure involving multiple bones, muscles, ligaments and blood vessels. A hand specialist might work on any of these structures, repairing damage from an injury, re-implanting a severed finger, repairing a torn blood vessel or replacing joints damaged by rheumatoid arthritis. Hand surgeons are also trained in medical management of hand conditions; conservative treatments are always the first choice, since any surgery has risks. Typical hand and wrist surgeries include carpal tunnel procedures, release of a trigger finger or Dupuytren’s contracture, or joint replacements in the fingers and thumb. Non-surgical treatments might include splinting, joint injections and referrals for physical or occupational therapy.

Choosing a Hand Surgeon

Your family doctor can help you decide whether you need the services of a specialist like a hand surgeon. In making your choice, be sure to confirm that the doctor has been properly trained (this information is usually readily available online). Ask about his or her experience with surgical procedures, especially the particular procedure you may need. Hand surgeons who perform more surgeries tend to be more technically skilled, as repetition promotes technical expertise. Another consideration is personality. Ideally, medical care should be a partnership between you and the doctor, which means you should feel comfortable with each other and able to discuss all aspects of your condition and care.

Not all hand surgeons are created equal. The hand specialists at the Florida Hand Center are highly trained and skilled, and see themselves as partners in your medical care. Dr. Stephen Helgemo holds board certification in both orthopedics and hand surgery, and is regarded as Florida’s leading endoscopic carpal tunnel surgeon. Dr. Ivan Olarte is a general surgeon who is certified in that field and specially trained in microsurgery of the hand. Please contact us today to schedule an appointment. We serve residents of Port Charlotte and Fort Myers.