Hand surgery is plastic surgery
The phone call
Last night I received a call from a plastic surgery colleague. He was called in to treat a hand injury in the emergency room at Cedars-Sinai Hospital. The injury involved cut tendons, nerves and arteries of the ring finger. He asked for some help and I was happy to scrub in and help a friend as we listened to Cold Play while operating.
The photo above shows the injury after the cut was extended to visualize the injured tendons and nerves. We repaired several critical structures while tuned into my favorite Cold Play album, Parachutes.
However, the point of this article isn’t to encourage you to all run out and buy the album Parachutes. But if you did, I wouldn’t fault you. It is to inform you that plastic surgeons are trained to operate on the hand. Not surprisingly, many people don’t know that plastic surgeons routinely operate on the hand. It’s not for beauty. It’s to restore function. In fact, most emergency rooms have plastic surgeons on call to treat hand injuries that are too complex for the emergency room physician.
Although fingers are small, surgeries to repair their tendons, vessels, and nerves tend to be very long. Thankfully, hand surgery provides the surgeon the ability to sit down while he or she operates. Because the nerves and vessels are so tiny, microscopes are often needed to properly visualize an repair the injured components. Stitches as thin as hair are used to suture nerves and vessels.
After hand surgery, a big part of the recovery is physical therapy. This particular patient will need finger immobilization for a period of 2 weeks followed by range of motion exercises for several weeks. Why? To prevent stiffness in the joints. It may take several months for the nerves to heal completely and provide sensation to the tip of the finger.