Wrist pain is one of the most common afflictions that send patients to orthopedic doctors. We use our hands heavily on a daily basis, from the time we wake up and brush our teeth to the time we go to bed and scroll on our smartphones until falling asleep. This continuous use of the hands and wrists can lead to a variety of issues, such as overuse injuries and traumatic injuries when accidents occur.
Wrist surgeons, also known as hand and wrist surgeons or orthopedic hand surgeons, are specialized medical professionals who focus on the diagnosis, treatment, and management of conditions and injuries affecting the wrist, hand, and fingers.
Their extensive knowledge and expertise in the complex anatomy and function of these intricate structures allow them to provide comprehensive care for a wide range of wrist-related conditions.
Training and Qualifications
Becoming a wrist surgeon requires a rigorous educational and training path. After completing medical school and obtaining a medical degree, aspiring hand surgeons undergo a specialized residency program in orthopedic surgery. This residency typically lasts five years and involves comprehensive training in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal conditions.
Following residency, hand surgeons typically pursue additional fellowship training specifically focused on hand and wrist surgery, which lasts one to two years. During this fellowship, they gain specialized knowledge and experience in the intricacies of hand and wrist anatomy, trauma management, microsurgical techniques, and the treatment of various hand and wrist disorders.
Areas of Expertise
Wrist surgeons are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of conditions affecting the wrist, hand, and fingers, as well as the elbows and shoulders. They treat both acute injuries and chronic conditions, including fractures, dislocations, ligament and tendon injuries, nerve compression, arthritis, sports-related injuries, congenital hand abnormalities, and other conditions that may impact hand and wrist function.
Wrist surgeons are highly capable of performing surgery; however, they treat patients using non-surgical approaches as much as possible.
Wrist surgeons utilize a combination of physical examination, imaging studies, and diagnostic tests to accurately diagnose wrist conditions. They carefully assess the patient’s medical history, perform a thorough physical examination, and may order X-rays or other imaging studies to evaluate the structures within the wrist and hand. This comprehensive approach enables them to make accurate diagnoses and develop effective treatment plans.
Wrist surgeons often work closely with a multidisciplinary team, including hand therapists, physiatrists, physical therapists, and occupational therapists to provide comprehensive care for patients.
Wrist surgeons employ various treatment strategies depending on the specific condition or injury. Some of the non-surgical treatment options the doctor may prescribe are:
- Immobilization with splints or casts
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Hand therapy
- Cortisone injections
- PRP therapy
When conservative measures are insufficient or inappropriate, a wrist surgeon can recommend surgical intervention. Wrist surgeons are skilled in a wide array of surgical techniques, ranging from minimally invasive procedures to complex reconstructive surgeries.
Common Hand and Wrist Surgeries
Below, you will find some of the most common surgical procedures performed by wrist surgeons:
- Carpal Tunnel Release: Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which runs through the carpal tunnel in the wrist, becomes compressed. Wrist surgeons perform carpal tunnel release surgery to relieve pressure on the median nerve. This involves cutting the transverse carpal ligament to create more space within the carpal tunnel, alleviating symptoms such as pain, numbness, and tingling in the hand.
- Trigger Finger Release: Trigger finger, or stenosing tenosynovitis, is a condition in which a finger becomes locked in a bent position. Wrist surgeons can perform a trigger finger release surgery to release the constricted tendon sheath, allowing the finger to move freely again.
- Dupuytren’s Contracture Surgery: Dupuytren’s contracture is a condition where thickened tissue forms in the palm and fingers, causing the fingers to bend inward and limiting movement. Wrist surgeons perform surgery to remove or release the affected tissue, improving finger extension and function.
- Fracture Fixation: Wrist fractures, such as distal radius fractures, are common injuries. Wrist surgeons use various techniques to realign and stabilize the fractured bones, often employing metal plates, screws, or pins to hold the bone fragments in place while they heal.
- Tendon Repair: Tendons in the hand and wrist can become damaged or torn due to trauma, overuse, or other factors. Wrist surgeons perform tendon repair surgeries to reattach or suture the torn ends of the tendons, restoring function and facilitating proper healing.
- Arthroscopy: Wrist arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical technique that allows the surgeon to visualize and treat various wrist conditions using a small camera and specialized instruments inserted through small incisions. Arthroscopy can be used to diagnose and treat conditions such as ligament tears, cartilage damage, and wrist impingement.
- Joint Replacement: In cases of severe arthritis or joint degeneration in the wrist, wrist surgeons may perform joint replacement surgery. This involves removing the damaged joint surfaces and replacing them with artificial implants, such as metal or plastic components, to restore joint function and reduce pain.
- Nerve Decompression: Nerve compression conditions, such as cubital tunnel syndrome or radial tunnel syndrome, can cause pain, weakness, and numbness in the hand and wrist. Wrist surgeons can perform nerve decompression surgeries to relieve pressure on the affected nerves and alleviate symptoms.
All these procedures have the goal of restoring hand and wrist function, alleviating pain, and improving patients’ quality of life.
Recovery and Rehabilitation
After surgery, wrist surgeons play a crucial role in post-operative care and rehabilitation. They provide guidance on wound care, and pain management, and assist with developing a personalized rehabilitation program.
Hand therapists are a part of your care team, facilitating the recovery process, and focusing on helping restore the range of motion, strength, and functional abilities of the hand and wrist. Regular follow-up appointments with the hand and wrist surgeon are still important for monitoring progress and addressing any concerns.
Choosing a Wrist Surgeon
When considering wrist surgery, it is essential to select a board-certified orthopedic surgeon specializing in hand surgery. Research the surgeon’s qualifications, credentials, and expertise to ensure you choose the best of the best.
Fellowship training – For the most qualified wrist surgeon, choose an orthopedic surgeon fellowship trained in hand and microvascular surgery. Through this fellowship, surgeons gain an in-depth understanding of hand anatomy, biomechanics, and the intricacies of hand-related injuries and disorders. They learn advanced surgical techniques for microvascular reconstruction, nerve repair, tendon transfers, joint reconstruction, and complex fracture fixation.
Patient reviews – Another important step is to read patient reviews and testimonials from past patients to learn about the quality of patient care provided by the physician.
Initial consultation – Consultation appointments are an opportunity to discuss your hand condition and treatment options, allowing you to make an informed decision about your care.
By entrusting your wrist health to a skilled and experienced wrist surgeon, you can be confident that you will receive high-quality care and personalized treatment for your hand or wrist condition.
Top Hand and Wrist Surgeon in Miami Lakes and Plantation, FL
If you’re experiencing wrist pain, limited mobility, or have sustained an injury to your wrist, don’t let it hold you back from living your life to the fullest.
Consult board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopedic hand and wrist surgeon, Dr. Tosca Kinchelow at The Orthopedic Hand and Arm Center. We can provide you with the solutions you need for pain relief and to regain the full function of your hands.