Incredibly complex and flexible, the human hand can perform a variety of amazing tasks from embroidery to keyboarding to sculpture. Hand pain or deformity can limit many daily activities. Disease, injury or degenerative conditions like arthritis can limit motion and cause pain. Hand surgery may be necessary to correct these problems. When you need hand surgery, the experts at the Florida Hand Center stand ready to help.
Which Doctors Perform Hand Surgery?
Whether you use the term hand doctor, hand surgeon or hand specialist, you’re nearly always talking about an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in hand and wrist conditions. After medical school and an orthopedic surgical residency, these doctors complete additional training called a fellowship that lasts at least one year and may last three. Plastic surgeons may also perform some kinds of hand surgery such as skin grafts and some general surgeons may also have taken special training in hand surgery. The advantage of an orthopedic surgeon is that he or she is truly a specialist in musculoskeletal conditions and that is the entire focus of orthopedic surgical training.
What Conditions Can be Treated With Hand Surgery?
Injuries such as fractures are one of the most common reasons for surgery on the hands. However, with the increased numbers of older Americans, surgery for degenerative conditions is also quite common. For example, rheumatoid arthritis can damage joints in the wrist and fingers so badly that a joint replacement is necessary to relieve pain and restore function. When there is too much pressure on the median nerve in the wrist, a carpal tunnel procedure may be necessary. Contractures of the finger tendons may also require surgery.
Do I Need Hand Surgery?
The answer to that question depends on the problem. Even though they are surgical specialists, most hand surgeons won’t immediately recommend surgery except in cases of fractures, damage to blood vessels or torn ligaments and tendons. Conservative care with exercise, splints and physical therapy is less risky than surgery, so these therapies are often the first step. However, if conservative therapy isn’t successful, surgery may be required.
What Are the Procedures Like?
Hand surgery is as variable as the conditions for which it must be done. Typical surgeries include fracture fixation with metal pins or screws, bone grafts, ligament and tendon repairs, artificial joint replacements and a variety of other procedures. A general anesthetic or intravenous sedation with a nerve block are typically used. Many of these procedures can be performed in an outpatient surgery center. Arthroscopic surgeries allow the surgeon to use a tiny camera and make only two or three incisions; there is much less trauma and recovery is faster. You may need a cast, splint or brace after the surgery and physical therapy is nearly always recommended to help restore full strength, flexibility and function.
Just as the hand is complex, the issue of hand surgery has its own complexity. If you think you might need surgery, please contact us for an assessment and recommendations for care.