Hand surgeons specialize in treating injuries or disorders of the from the hand to the shoulder - these physicians are expert surgeons capable of providing surgical and non-surgical treatment options.

Watch an Overview of Hand Surgery

About Hand Surgery

Modern hand surgery came to prominence after soldiers in World War II came home with hand injuries that left them disabled, often resulting in a lack of employment opportunity. The necessity to provide these veterans with the ability to seek gainful employment and return their hands to full or near-full functionality advanced the field of hand surgery exponentially. The hands are a complex part of the body – in the event they suffer substantial or traumatic injury, it takes a highly trained surgeon to provide care that can correct the malfunctions and injuries to the hand, wrist and forearm.

Hand surgeons have extensive training in the anatomy, physiology and function of the hand, wrist and forearm, and are able to diagnose any condition affecting these areas. Although the name of the specialty seems to suggest only surgical care, hand surgeons are trained to provide non-surgical treatment methods as well.

Hand surgeons are capable of treating conditions such as Dupuytren’s contracture, fractures, nerve damage, sprains, arthritis, trauma to the hand and related structures, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendon rupture, MCP joint arthritis and congenital defects, among many others. To correct these conditions, hand surgeons may perform a host of surgical operations. These may include skin grafts, skin flaps, closed reduction and fixation surgery, tendon repair, surgical drainage, joint replacements, fasciotomy and nerve repair and replantation, among other procedures - all of which depend upon the surgeon’s diagnosis. The overarching goal of hand surgery is to provide patients with the highest degree of functionality possible following an injury to the hand and related structures.

Hand Surgery Education & Training

Hand surgeons must complete a rigorous program of study and training in order to practice medicine. After completing a four year undergraduate degree, the student must earn a four year MD or DO degree. Following graduation from medical school, the student must go on to complete one of three residency programs: a four to five year residency in orthopedic surgery, a five year residency in general surgery, or a five to seven year residency in plastic surgery.

During an orthopedic surgery residency, the physician is exposed to a wide range of orthopedic disciplines such as joint reconstruction, arthroplasty, sports medicine, orthopedic spine surgery, musculoskeletal trauma, hand surgery, pediatric orthopedics and other areas. Physicians who choose to complete a general surgery residency are exposed to preoperative, operative and postoperative care throughout a range of surgical rotations, including general and trauma surgery. Physicians who undertake a plastic surgery residency typically complete three years of training in general surgery (which may include plastic surgery rotations) before spending the next three to four years focusing on plastic surgery.

Following completion of one of the three residency programs, the physician must complete a hand surgery fellowship program, which generally lasts one or two years. During the fellowship the surgeon will be trained in various surgeries relating to the hand and wrist including trauma surgery, microvascular surgery, congenital disorders, peripheral nerve nursery, arthritis surgery and reconstructive surgery, among other areas. After completing a fellowship in hand surgery, the surgeon is able to seek board certification through the Surgery of the Hand Certifying Examination from the American Board of Surgery (ABS).