Hand Reconstruction Overview
Your hands are vital for everyday life. Whether you’re brushing your teeth, opening a door, or operating tools, you want to perform daily tasks effortlessly and without pain. An injury that impairs the fingers, hands, or wrists can significantly affect your quality of life. With reconstructive hand surgery, both the function and appearance of the hand can be restored. The goal is to reduce pain and improve function and flexibility so you can get back to your regular activities.
Reconstructive hand surgery helps patients with hand injuries, joint deformity due to rheumatoid arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other hand disorders. Normal wear-and-tear over time can trigger painful hand problems that may be helped with hand surgery. In an emergency situation, crush injuries or deep wounds caused by fireworks and sharp objects may require immediate surgery and hand reconstruction followed by wound care and physical therapy. Hand surgery can also correct abnormalities present at birth.
Planning and Recovery
What to Expect
If you’re experiencing painful symptoms but do not have a diagnosis, schedule a consultation with one of our hand specialists. The surgeon will examine your hand and ask questions to determine if you’re a candidate for hand reconstruction. If surgery is recommended, you’ll discuss any risks and potential complications and walk through the steps involved. You’ll be given specific instructions to follow prior to your surgery.
On the day of surgery, you’ll be given anesthesia medication to avoid feeling pain during the procedure. Your surgeon may use a variety of leading-edge surgical techniques to achieve the best results. For example:
- Microsurgery involves using a surgical microscope to repair and reconnect tendons in the fingers or hands.
- Minimally invasive surgery involves using an endoscope (a small flexible tube with a tiny camera), which is commonly used for carpal tunnel release.
- Skin grafting or grafting of bone, nerves, and other tissue from healthy parts of the body may be required for complex cases.
- Z-plasty may be used to improve the function and cosmetic appearance of scars.
Recovery from Hand Reconstruction
It’s important to follow your surgeon’s instructions for proper care of your hand(s) after surgery. You may have specific directions about taking medications and how to clean and care for the surgical site. Your doctor may recommend physical therapy to help you regain movement, strength, and flexibility in your hands.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Before surgery, you may be asked to get blood tests and take or adjust medications. If you smoke, quitting will help you heal faster and avoid possible complications. You’ll also need to arrange for transportation to and from the surgery and for someone to stay with you the night after the surgery.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, risks include:
- Allergies to tape, suture materials and glues, blood products, topical preparations, or injected agents
- Anesthesia risks
- Bleeding (hematoma)
- Blood clots
- Change in skin sensation
- Damage to deeper structures—such as nerves, blood vessels, muscles, and lungs—can occur and may be temporary or permanent
- Deep vein thrombosis, cardiac, and pulmonary complications
- Injury to the blood vessels, nerves, or tendons
- Pain, which may persist
- Poor healing of incisions
- Possibility of revisional surgery
- Skin contour irregularities
- Skin discoloration/swelling
- Unexpected hand swelling
- Unfavorable scarring
Recovery time varies depending on the type of surgery. Recovery from carpal tunnel release surgery can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. For complicated cases involving microsurgery, tissue grafting, or other advanced surgical techniques, recovery can take several months or a year. For some traumatic injuries, it may not be possible to completely restore normal function.
Your doctor may recommend a physical therapy program to help you get the best results from your surgery. Physical therapy can help you regain range of motion, strength, and flexibility after surgery.