WHAT IS A HAND FELLOWSHIP?

After four years of medical school and a 5 year residency in Orthopedic Surgery, General Surgery, or Plastic Surgery, a surgeon desiring to specialize in hand surgery will spend an additional year of sub-specialty fellowship training focusing exclusively on hand and upper extremity conditions and their treatment.

Hand Surgery fellowships prepares surgeons to be experts in the treatment of:

  • Peripheral nerve surgery (carpal tunnel, cubital tunnel, etc.)
  • Arthritis surgery (both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis)
  • Trauma surgery of the hand, wrist, forearm, and elbow including replantation of severed body parts
  • Reconstructive wrist surgery
  • Microvascular surgery
  • Congenital abnormalities

WHY DOES IT MATTER IF THE DOCTOR TREATING MY HAND COMPLETED A HAND FELLOWSHIP?

As you can see from the description above:

THE ONLY TRUE EXPERTS IN HAND CARE
ARE HAND FELLOWSHIP TRAINED SURGEONS!

These are the ONLY SURGEONS OFFICIALLY RECOGNIZED AS HAND SURGEONS.

 

WHAT ABOUT SURGEONS WITHOUT FELLOWSHIP TRAINING?

There are surgeons without hand fellowship training who do carpal tunnel surgery, trigger finger surgery and cyst removal, etc. These may be orthopedic surgeons, general surgeons, plastic surgeons, or neurosurgeons. While these surgeons are qualified and have experience performing these procedures in their residency programs the benefit of a FELLOWSHIP TRAINED HAND SPECIALIST treating your hand should be obvious – they not only have more experience treating hand conditions (that is the main focus of their practice), they also know more about the diagnosis and treatment of your hand condition and the best method of executing that treatment.

 

WHAT ABOUT DOCTORS WHO ARE NOT SURGEONS WHO CLAIM THEY CAN TREAT YOUR CARPAL TUNNEL OR TRIGGER FINGER?

While these doctors may have done some weekend training or taken a course in how to do a particular procedure, THEY DO NOT have the depth of knowledge, experience, or expertise in treating your hand like a fellowship trained hand specialist or one of the non-fellowship trained surgeons already mentioned.

Since all they know to do is the procedure they were taught in their weekend course – they CANNOT truly provide you informed consent regarding the best treatment for your carpal tunnel or trigger finger.  They literally know only one way to surgically treat your problem.

Since they are not surgeons they cannot use their experience and surgical training to assess your hand and recommend the best surgical treatment option because they don’t have surgical experience or training.

When all you have is a hammer – everything is treated like a nail! 

These doctors are often family practice doctors who did a non-surgical fellowship in Sports Medicine, a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation doctor, or even a Pain Management doctor.  They DO NOT learn hand surgery in those residencies or fellowships.

The question you need to ask yourself is simple: If they are NOT Hand Specialists and they are NOT Surgeons – should they be doing MY Hand Surgery?

The reason these doctors ONLY perform these hand surgeries in their offices is because THEY WOULD NOT BE ALLOWED to perform them at a hospital or surgery center because a hospital would not give these NON SURGEONS hospital privileges to perform surgery since they lack formal training as surgeons.”

While these doctors may be capable of providing a steroid injection for your symptoms, allowing a NON SURGEON to perform a SURGICAL PROCEDURE on your hands such as a carpal tunnel release, trigger finger release, or Dupuytrens contracture release may be tempting fate considering these procedures are outside their area of expertise.

Do these NON-SURGEONS have malpractice insurance covering your hand surgery?
  • Having a NON-SURGEON perform carpal tunnel or trigger finger surgery on your hand would NOT BE CONSIDERED STANDARD OF CARE  for treatment of these conditions in the United States.
  • Because these doctors are NON-SURGEONS performing hand surgery – it is possible that their malpractice insurance company may not even cover them if you suffer a complication.
  • If you do choose to have one of these doctors perform your carpal tunnel release or trigger finger release, make sure you ask if their insurance carrier is aware that they are performing hand surgery in their office even though they are not surgeons. They would not be allowed to do these procedures at a hospital – why are they allowed to do them in their office?
What if these NON-SURGEONS have a surgical complication?
  • In the event that these NON-SURGEONS do perform your carpal tunnel surgery or trigger finger surgery in their office and there is a complication – they will then refer you to a Fellowship Trained Hand Surgeon to fix their complication.
  • I am sure you have arrived at the obvious conclusion – why not just start with the hand specialist and minimize your risk!

 

WHAT IS BOARD CERTIFICATION AND WHY DOES IT MATTER?

Since 1934 and continuing to this day, the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery (ABOS) has existed to evaluate and review the initial and continuing qualifications and competence of its Orthopaedic Surgeon Diplomates. Well, what does that mean for you as a patient? It means you are in excellent hands when you choose to receive care from an ABOS Board Certified Orthopaedic Hand Surgeon.

Furthermore, it means that the care you do receive will be of the highest quality, mindful of your safety, steeped in science and focused on achieving a successful outcome.

ABOS is the most widely recognized standard of achievement for Orthopaedic Surgery and Hand Surgery. If your Orthopaedic Hand Surgeon has earned their ABOS Board Certification, you know that he or she is highly-competent, operates with safety and quality in mind, and is up-to-date on the latest advances.

ABOS Certification demonstrates an Orthopaedic Surgeon’s attainment to high standards for education, knowledge, experience, and skills.

Patients who choose an ABOS Board Certified Orthopaedic Hand Surgeon can be certain that they will receive competent and quality care from someone who not only is highly-skilled, but also current in their medical knowledge. Evidence shows that when patients are treated by a Board Certified physician, they experience fewer complications, with lower infection rates, shorter recovery times, and less time away from home.

Board Certified Hand Surgeon – Patient Brochure

Board Cerfied Orthopedic Surgeon – Patient Brochure

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ABOS Board Certified Orthopaedic Hand Surgeons are more likely to deliver care that is:

  • Safe and quality-driven
  • Up-to-date on the latest science and technology
  • Focused on patients and their family unit
  • Dedicated to reducing infection rates
  • Efficient and cost-effective

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