Why consult a hand surgeon?
The hand is extremely complicated. It is made up of 27 bones (including the 8 bones of the wrist), together with joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles, nerves, skin and blood vessels, all designed to work together in a delicate balance. It takes special training to understand all the problems that can occur in the hand, the way in which a problem in one element of the hand affects the others, and the best course of action to be taken to restore overall hand function.
Hand surgeons are trained to diagnose and treat all the problems that occur in the hand and wrist. They undertake special training in hand surgery on top of their pre-existing qualifications as orthopaedic, plastic or general surgeons. However, hand surgeons do more than perform surgery. They recognise that not all, or even most, problems are best treated by surgery, and will recommend non-surgical treatments, such as hand therapy and injections, where such treatments are more appropriate.
Even when surgery is appropriate, hand therapy is often required to achieve the best possible results. For this reason, hand surgeons work closely with hand therapists to ensure the best overall course of treatment for each patient.
If you have pain in, or have sustained an injury to, your hand or wrist, ask your GP for a referral to a hand surgeon. To be referred to one of our hand surgeons at the Hand Centre, print this document and take it with you. In general, the earlier the intervention, the better the outcome.
Consulting at the Hand Centre
At the Hand Centre, you will find qualified hand surgeons with a range of sub-specialties and interests, meaning that whatever your hand injury or condition, we have it covered.
A referral to a hand surgeon does not necessarily mean that you will require surgery. It means that you have been referred to an expert in the diagnosis and treatment of hand problems. Your hand surgeon will diagnose your problem and recommend a treatment, but he or she will not necessarily be the person or persons treating you. If the recommended treatment is surgery or an injection, and you agree to proceed, then your hand surgeon will most likely perform it for you. However, if the recommended treatment is, for example, hand therapy, then your surgeon will refer you to a hand therapist, although he or she will continue to monitor your progress with the hand therapist.
How long you wait for an initial appointment with us depends largely on the nature of your injury or condition. Emergencies and acute injuries, such as fractures, will be prioritised. Less severe injuries and low level chronic conditions will generally entail a wait of a few days to a few weeks, depending on both your availability and your surgeon’s.
We recognise that the optimal treatment of hand injuries and conditions often involves more than one kind of treatment and always requires contact with other medical practitioners (in the first instance, your GP or other referring doctor). We place the highest priority on treating you, but we are also committed to communicating and working collaboratively with all parties involved in your treatment – your GP in particular and, as relevant, your hand therapist and other medical specialists – to ensure that you achieve the best possible result. If you are a WorkCover, DVA or motor vehicle accident patient, we will work with all involved parties to promote your early recovery and return to work or to your pre-injury activities.