Hand

In this section

What is hand surgery?

Hand surgery is a broad term that incorporates a vast array of different types of surgery on the hand. Plastic surgeons who perform hand surgery attempt to restore not only the function of the hand, but try to maximize the cosmetic appearance of the hand, as well. Surgery on the hand may be done for many reasons, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Trauma to the hand
  • Rheumatic changes to the structures in the hand
  • Congenital (present at birth) deformities
  • Infections

What are the different types of hand surgery?

Many different types of surgeries can be performed on the hand, depending on the underlying cause of the problem. The following is a brief overview of some of the types of surgery that may be performed:

Skin grafts. Skin grafts involve replacing or attaching skin to a part of the hand that has missing skin. The most common type of injury requiring a skin graft is fingertip amputations or injuries. Skin grafts are performed by taking a piece of healthy skin from another area of the body (called the donor site) and attaching it to the needed area.

Skin flaps. A skin flap is similar to a skin graft, in which a part of the skin is taken from another area. However, with a skin flap, the skin that is retrieved has its own blood supply. The section of skin used includes the underlying blood vessels, fat, and muscles. Flaps may be used when an area that is missing the skin does not have a good supply of blood because of the location, damage to the vessels, or extensive damage to the tissue.

Closed reduction and fixation. This technique may be used when there is a fracture in part of the hand, including the fingers. This type of surgery attempts to realign the fractured bone and then immobilize the area during the healing phase. Immobilization can be done with internal fixtures, such as with wires, rods, splints, and casts.

Tendon repair. Tendons are the fibers that attach muscle to bone. Repair of tendons remains a surgical challenge because of the structure of the tendon. Tendon injuries can occur due to infection, trauma, or spontaneous rupture. Repair of a tendon may be classified as primary, delayed primary, or secondary. Primary repair of an acute injury is usually completed within 24 hours of the injury. Delayed primary repair is usually performed a few days after the injury, but while there is still an opening in the skin from the wound. Secondary repairs may occur two to five weeks or longer after the injury. Primary repairs usually involve direct surgical correction of the injury, while secondary repairs may include tendon grafts (inserting tendons from other areas of the body in place of the damaged tendon) or other more complex procedures.

Nerve repairs. There are three main nerves that innervate the hand, including the ulnar nerve, the median nerve, and the radial nerve. Damage to these nerves from injury may result in decreased ability to move the hand and experience feeling. Some nerve injuries may heal on their own, while others require surgery. Overall, about three to six weeks after the injury is the best time for nerve repairs that are associated with other, more complicated, injuries. Surgery to investigate a damaged nerve that is not complicated by other injuries is usually performed early after the trauma, to increase the likelihood of a full recovery. If severed, the nerve may be repaired by reattaching it directly to the other end of the nerve, or by using a nerve graft (inserting nerves from other areas of the body in place of the damaged nerve) to repair the damaged section.

Fasciotomy. This procedure is performed to help treat compartment syndromes. A compartment is a three-dimensional anatomic space in the body that is surrounded by fascia or bone and contains arteries, nerves, and veins. A compartment syndrome is a condition that arises when there is an increase in intracompartmental tissue pressure within a space in the body, usually caused by trauma, which can interfere with the circulation to the body tissues and destroy function. In the hand, a compartment syndrome may lead to severe and increasing pain, muscle weakness, and, eventually, a change in color of the fingers or nailbeds.

 
Surgical drainage and/or debridement. Our hands are constantly at risk for injury and infection. Infections of the hand are a common reason people seek treatment. The treatment for infections to the hand may include rest, use of heat, elevation, antibiotics, and surgery. Surgical drainage may be used if there is an abscess in the hand to help remove the collection of pus. Debridement, or cleansing of a wound to prevent further infection and to help promote healing, may be used if the infection or wound is severe.

Joint replacement. This type of surgery, also called arthroplasty, may be used in people with severe arthritis of the hand. This involves replacing a joint that has been destroyed by the disease process with an artificial joint. This artificial joint may be made out of metal, plastic, silicone rubber, or the patient's own body tissue (such as a tendon).

Replantation. This type of surgery replaces fingers or hands that have inadvertently been amputated, usually by some type of trauma. Replantation uses microsurgery, which is an intricate and precise surgery that is performed under magnification. Some severe injuries may require more than one surgery for optimal recovery.

What are the risks of hand surgery?

Most surgery carries the risks of anesthesia and bleeding. Additional risks associated with surgery depend greatly on the type of surgery being performed and may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Infection
  • Incomplete healing
  • Loss of feeling or movement of the hand or fingers
  • Blood clots may form

Continue Watching

Check-up: Breast cancer surgery (Maria Rapciak, DO)

Surgery is a common treatment for breast cancer. It’s done to remove as much of the cancer as possible. General surgeon, Maria Rapciak, DO, explains the types of surgical options available to women and the factors that go into creating a plan of care.

Colon cancer: Judi Huff "Listen to your body"

Judi was shocked to learn that her pain was caused by colon cancer. Thanks to general surgeon, Michael Webb, MD, Judi is now cancer free.

Check-up: Breast augmentation vs. breast lift (Nicole Phillips, MD)

Plastic surgeon, Nicole Phillips, MD, shares more about the customized breast augmentation and breast lift techniques offered at Stonegate Plastic Surgery.

Check-up: When a blocked bowel needs surgery (Seth Miller, MD)

General surgeon, Seth Miller, MD, explains blocked bowel symptoms and when surgery may be needed.

Check-up: Preparing for a successful surgery (James Clancy, MD)

General surgeon, James Clancy, MD, shares his tips for successful surgery.

Lakeland Weight Loss Center: More than a number on the scale.

Patients at the Lakeland Weight Loss Center share their personal experience undergoing bariatric surgery and how it has improved their health and overall outlook on life.

Weight loss surgery: Tashawn Reese "A bright future ahead"

Tashawn Reese has lost 150 pounds and hopes to soon be off his high blood pressure medications and CPAP machine for sleep apnea, after having bariatric surgery with Seth Miller, MD.

Check-up: Do hemorrhoids need surgery? (Seth Miller, MD)

General surgeon, Seth Miller, MD, discusses at home treatments for hemorrhoids and when surgery may be required to correct the problem.

Double knee replacement: Maureen Bishop "Walking with her head held high"

Maureen Bishop spent years living with knee pain. She turned to orthopedic surgeon, Jeffrey Postma, DO, for a solution.

Check-up: What are the warning signs of an appendicitis? (Seth Miller, MD)

General surgeon, Seth Miller, MD, discusses the warning signs to look for and how appendicitis is treated.

© Spectrum Health Lakeland 2021
Hospital