Each year, 16 million Americans seek out emergency care for hand injury. Injury to the hand can be caused by trauma, many times related to work activities. Other times, repetitive use of the fingers and hand can cause carpal tunnel syndrome, when the tissues surrounding the flexor tendons in the wrist swell and put pressure on the median nerve. Carpal tunnel syndrome can be a disabling and expensive problem for the workplace. Many times, however, it can be successfully treated with minor outpatient surgery.
The field of hand surgery deals with both the surgical and nonsurgical treatment of conditions and problems that may take place in the hand or upper extremity (from the tip of the hand to the top of the arm). Many conditions occur in the arm that can be treated by a hand surgeon, including the immediate care of a hand, wrist or arm injury, treatment and reconstruction of old injuries, congenital differences in children, hand, wrist, and elbow arthritis, new lumps on the hand and arm, tumors, conditions that cause tingling, pain and numbness in the hand and arm, as well as swelling of tendons. Some hand surgeons also take care of problems of the elbow and shoulder.
Hand surgeons are required to participate in specialized training in upper extremity surgery during their orthopaedic residencies and hand fellowships. A fellowship is an additional period of time spent in specialty training following the required multiyear orthopaedic residency.