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Hand surgery

Overview of hand surgery

Hand surgery describes a group of procedures for treating the hand, wrist, or forearm. If you’re experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger, severe wrist pain, or symptoms of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or diabetes, hand surgery may relieve your discomfort.

If you’ve been encouraged to see a hand surgeon, our orthopedic doctors at Dignity Health are available. To learn more about your options for treating hand pain, Find a Doctor today.

Why it’s necessary

Most hand conditions and injuries can be treated with at-home or conservative treatments like rest, icing, immobilization, physical therapy, over the counter or prescription medications, and injections.

If your hand problem hasn’t improved after conservative treatment, or in the case of some severe injuries related to trauma, your doctor may recommend hand surgery.

To determine whether you are a candidate for hand surgery, your doctor will begin by taking a medical history and performing a physical exam. Generally, your doctor will order additional tests, such as:

  • X-ray to view bones
  • MRI to view tendons, ligaments, and muscles
  • Ultrasound to view blood vessels, tissues, and organs, including cysts
  • Arthrography, a contrast dye used to see the joint on x-ray
  • CT scan to view bones, muscles, and fat in more detail

These tests will all help your doctor create a clearer picture of what is causing your pain and provide information for the next steps of treatment.

Common conditions treated with hand surgery

Hand surgery may be beneficial if you have any of the following conditions:

  • Arthritis. When one or more of your joints is inflamed due to wearing away of cartilage, it is called arthritis.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome. This is a condition caused by pressure on the medial nerve in the wrist. Symptoms include pain, numbness in the fingers, weakness, or tingling, and it is associated with repetitive motion, overuse, rheumatoid arthritis, injury, and fluid retention during pregnancy.
  • Dupuytren’s contracture. This is a hand disorder where thick tissue bands form in the palm and extend toward the fingers, causing severely restricted movement.
  • Hand and wrist sprains, or serious injuries to the ligaments and tendons in your hand, wrist, or forearm.
  • Nerve injuries are generally characterized by loss of sensation in a particular area.
  • Trigger finger. Also called “stenosing tenosynovitis,” trigger finger is characterized by pain, stiffness, and the feeling of locking or catching when you try to bend or straighten your finger. It is most common in the ring finger and thumb.
  • Severe trauma-related injuries, such as compound fractures or dislocations in your fingers or the carpal bones in your hand.


If you have a hand condition that is causing you discomfort or limiting your activities, Dignity Health offers a variety of minimally invasive hand surgery treatments. An experienced, caring hand surgeon can diagnose, treat, and operate on your hand, wrist, or forearm.

We offer the following types of hand surgery:

  • Arthroscopy to inspect your joint and make repairs
  • Joint replacement treats your diseased finger, knuckle, or wrist joint
  • Nerve surgery repairs your nerves or relieves a compressed nerve
  • Replantation reattaches your fingers or hands after an accidental amputation
  • Skin grafts and flaps are used to replace missing skin from your hand or wrist
  • Tendon surgery improves your hand movement by repairing a tendon


As with any surgery, there are risks with hand surgery. They include, but are not limited to:

  • Incomplete healing
  • Blood clots or bleeding
  • Infection
  • Limited feeling or movement in the hands or fingers
  • Persistent pain
  • No improvement of original injury
  • Tendon scarring

If you and your doctor decide to move forward with hand surgery, it is because you both have agreed that the benefits outweigh the risks. Be sure to follow post-operative care instructions for the best outcome.

The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.