Skip to Main Content

1. Surgery of the hand is a regional specialty, integrating components of neurologic, orthopedic, plastic, and vascular surgery.

2. Understanding hand anatomy is the key to proper diagnosis of injury, infection, and degenerative disease of the hand.

3. After evaluation and/or treatment, patients should be splinted to protect the injured digits and keep the collateral ligaments of the injured joints on tension (metacarpophalangeal joints flexed, interphalangeal joints extended).

4. Clinical examination, particularly noting the area of greatest tenderness and/or inflammation, is the most useful diagnostic tool for hand infections.

5. If a patient managed conservatively for “cellulitis” does not improve within 24 to 48 hours of appropriate IV antibiotics, abscess must be suspected.

6. Vascular injuries producing warm ischemia (incomplete amputations or direct vessel trauma with compromised distal perfusion) must be addressed urgently to prevent irreversible tissue loss.

7. Healing of an injured or diseased structure in the hand is not the endpoint of treatment; the goal of any intervention must be to obtain structural healing, relief of pain, and maximization of function.

The highly mobile, functional, and strong hand is a major distinguishing point between human beings and the nonhuman primates. The hand is an essential participant for activities of daily living, vocation, and recreational activities. The hand is even adaptable enough to read for the blind and speak for the mute. The underlying goal of all aspects of hand surgery is to maximize mobility, sensibility, stability, and strength while minimizing pain. These goals are then maximized to the extent possible given the patient’s particular pathology.


The hand is highly mobile in space to allow maximum flexibility in function. As such, a number of directions particular to the hand are necessary to properly describe position, motion, etc.1 Palmar (or volar) refers to the anterior surface of the hand in the anatomic position; dorsal refers to the posterior surface in the anatomic position. The hand can rotate at the wrist level; rotation to bring the palm down is called pronation, to bring the palm up is called supination. Because the hand can rotate in space, the terms medial and lateral are avoided. Radial and ulnar are used instead as these terms do not vary with respect to the rotational position of the hand. Abduction and adduction, when used on the hand, refer to movement of the digits away from and toward the middle finger, respectively (Fig. 44-1).

Fig. 44-1.

Terminology of common hand motions.

[Reproduced with permission from American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ed): The Hand: Examination and Diagnosis, 3rd ed. Copyright © Elsevier, 1990.]

The hand is comprised ...

Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.