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Hand Surgery

Hand Surgery: A Handshake to Hand Surgeons

Humans use their hands all the time. Hand injuries can disrupt even simple activities. In the mid-1970s, one resident of Albuquerque, New Mexico, had hand surgery for arthritis. She could not use her hands. Friends and family took turns stopping by to feed her as she recovered from that surgery.

While most often mentioned in connection with arthritis, hand surgery can also be used to treat various other conditions.

For example, when less intensive treatments prove inadequate, hand surgery can be used to treat Carpel Tunnel Syndrome. A patient develops that condition when his or her median nerve becomes compressed. The median nerve, which runs from the wrist to the hand, passes through the tunnel that is formed by the wrist bones.

A patient with a brachial plexus injury might need hand surgery. The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that extends from the spine to the shoulders and arms. An injury to the brachial plexus can reduce the patient’s ability to use his or her arm or hand. It can heal naturally, but the healing process can cause scarring of the nerve tissue.

When scars form on the nerve tissue in the hands, they make the nerves a bit larger than normal. That can create pressure in the hands and fingers. The added pressure can impair movement. Surgery must then be used to remove the scar tissue.

Another malformation of the hand is produced by ganglions. A ganglion is a knot of tissue. It develops at points where a hand joint has suffered a “blowout.” The joint balloons into the blown-out area, and joint fluid flows into that tiny “balloon”.

Over time, the ganglion becomes larger. If that larger ganglion causes pain, or if it becomes cosmetically objectionable, then it needs to be removed. Some ganglions can be removed by aspiration of the fluid; other ganglions require hand surgery.

As mentioned above, hand surgery as a treatment for arthritis represents the most commonly pictured type of hand surgery. Hand surgery often addresses a problem at the base of the thumb. A simple pinch puts a great deal of pressure on the joint at the base of the thumb. If that joint is affected by arthritis, hand movements become extremely painful and difficult.

The affected joint needs to be surgically corrected. The affected joint can be removed, but that limits the patient’s hand movements. In an alternative treatment, the hand surgeon places a synthetic or natural tendon in the affected joint. The pain disappears, and the patient can enjoy the normal use of his or her hand.