If hand surgery has been recommended, your first step is to take a deep breath. This is no time to panic. We rely heavily on our hands. It’s absolutely normal for a person with a hand injury or serious condition to experience anxiety when faced with the prospect of hand surgery. Before any decisions are made, it’s important to define your needs, articulate your expectations and research the attributes of a quality hand surgeon and orthopedic hospital.
Defining the Roles of Hand Specialists
The hand is a masterpiece that bridges art, engineering, and biology. There are 27 bones in the human hand that work harmoniously to provide us with dexterity, agility and sensory feedback to the brain. It’s remarkable and complex. When all those bones and tendons that attach them are not in sync, for whatever reason, you need a hand specialist. The title hand specialist is typically synonymous with a hand surgeon. According to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH): “A qualified hand specialist is trained to diagnose and treat all problems related to these different structures in the hand, wrist, and forearm.”
It is important to note that not all problems of the hand that are treated by a specialist require surgery. Your team of MOSH physicians will provide the right plan for you, which may mean you will work with a physical therapist as a first step. In some instances, medication and oversight from your general practitioner will be prescribed. Additionally, x-rays, electrical studies, and diagnostic arthroscopy may be used as diagnostic tools.
If surgery is required, you will work with even more specialists. Hand surgery is a team effort. Depending on your situation, you may work with physicians who specialize in plastic surgery, orthopedic medicine, pain management and more. Heading up your team will be your board-certified orthopedic surgeon who is specialized in hand care.
After surgery, you can expect to work with a hand therapist. As defined by ASSH, “A hand therapist is an occupational or physical therapist who, through advanced continuing education, clinical experience and integration of knowledge in anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology, has become proficient in the treatment of pathological upper extremity conditions resulting from trauma, disease, congenital or acquired deformity.” Essentially, a hand therapist will manage your post-surgical progress. Similar to a physical or occupational therapist, a hand therapist will design a plan to help you heal and regain movement or strength as expected by your team of physicians.
Schedule a Consultation
With so many physicians involved in your diagnosis, surgery, and recovery, it is imperative that you do your homework before making major decisions. When you’re hiring a professional to do a job, chemistry is key. This is no different.
As if you were a hiring manager, you can interview your hand specialist(s). Word-of-mouth recommendations and online research are always helpful, but finding the right chemistry can only be revealed with an in-person visit.
A physician who is perfect for your neighbor, might not be a good fit for you. Be sure to ask a mix of business and personality-based questions to make sure the hand surgeon is a good fit for you. During your consultation, you may want to ask:
- What are your board certifications and designations?
- How frequently do you perform surgery?
- What is your experience with my condition?
- What is your preferred method of communication with patients?
- How long have you been affiliated with this hospital?
- What complications can I expect?
- What will my treatment plan look like?
- What does my rehabilitation plan include?
Don’t be afraid to schedule more than one consultation before making your decision. And there’s no such thing as a dumb question. It’s always a good idea to bring a notebook or a mobile device to take notes. If you’re unable to write, bring a friend or family member to help.
Evaluate the Hospital, Too
It may seem like a given, but experience cannot be taken for granted. This goes for both individual physicians and hospitals at large. Not every orthopedic hospital conducts hand surgery with regularity. The frequency with which an institution hosts a specialty service matters. It means that specialty is invested in, both in staff and technology resources.
Be sure to check out your hospital’s credentials. At MOSH, we are proud to be ranked one of the top 10 hospitals in the nation for patient satisfaction according to HCAHPS data compiled by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Convenience matters, too. As a MOSH patient, your entire hand care experience—from diagnosis to surgery, to personalized rehabilitation—will take place under the same roof in a state-of-the-art facility.
If hand surgery is a possibility for you, schedule a consultation with a MOSH hand specialist today. We will work with so that all of your hand surgery decisions can be made with confidence.