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Hand and Wrist trauma Doctor in Pittsburgh, PA

Hand & Wrist Trauma

If you’ve experienced a traumatic injury to your hand or wrist, the consequences can be immediate and devastating. Not only are hand and wrist injuries extremely painful -- they can also make it difficult to perform essential everyday tasks, from driving and writing to brushing your teeth. 

As Pittsburgh’s top hand doctor, UPMC’s Alexander Spiess, MD is one of the most experienced, qualified, and skilled upper extremity specialists in the field. Dr. Spiess specializes in providing effective, long-term treatment for hand and wrist trauma, from bone fractures to joint replacements. Using state-of-the-art technology, Dr. Spiess offers his patients thorough, compassionate care that is focused on helping them return to full functionality and find relief from debilitating pain. 

If you’re ready to experience top-of-the-line care from the best hand & wrist surgeon in the Pittsburgh area following your traumatic injury, you’re in the right place. Reach out to Dr. Spiess’s office and schedule your first consultation today.

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Options for Fractures, Sprains, & Chronic Pain in Upper Extremities 

Top Treatment for Traumatic Hand and Wrist Injuries

As a physician and surgeon specializing in the hands and wrists, Alexander Spiess, MD frequently treats patients for broken bones in these areas. Fractures in the hands and wrists are common, but the varying nature of these injuries means that you should only trust a highly-experienced practitioner with your diagnosis and treatment plan.

Here are a few of the most common types of fractures Dr. Spiess treats at his practice:

  • Hand & Finger Fractures: Refers to breaks in the phalanges (bones between your finger joints) and metacarpals (bones placed behind your knuckles in your hand).
  • Scaphoid Fractures: A fracture in one of the small bones that form your wrist, common in those who have caught themselves after a fall during an accident or athletic activity.
  • Dislocated Fingers: ​​An event in which one of your fingers becomes forced out of its joint socket.
  • Distal Radius Fractures (Broken wrist): A fracture of the end of the radius bone (forearm bone) near the wrist.  Distal radius fractures are one of the most common types of bone fractures. 
  • Torn Ligaments in the Thumb (Skiers Thumb): The most common ligament to be injured in the thumb is the ulnar collateral ligament (inside of the thumb).

TREATMENT FOR TORN (SPRAINED) THUMB LIGAMENT 

Expert Care of Thumb or Finger Sprains

A sprain is an injury to a ligament, which is a soft tissue that connects bones to each other at joints.

The most common ligament to be injured in the thumb is the ulnar collateral ligament. This helps connect the thumb to the hand on the side near the index finger. It allows the thumb to act like a post. Injury to this ligament is sometimes called “skier’s thumb” because it is a common injury from a ski pole. The radial collateral ligament is on the other side of the thumb. It can tear, but this is not as common as a tear on the ulnar side.

Causes
A sprained thumb is common in sports and falls when the thumb is either jammed into another player, the ground or a ball, or when the thumb is bent into an extreme position. One or more ligaments can tear.

Signs and Symptoms
With a sprained thumb, the thumb or hand usually swells and may bruise. Pain might last for only a week or two. After that, the usual problem is function. You might have trouble writing, turning a doorknob, or holding a drinking glass. Sometimes this is felt as pain and sometimes weakness.

Treatment

In diagnosing a sprained thumb, x-rays can show whether the bones of the thumb and hand are broken. Your hand specialist will examine the thumb to determine whether the ligament is torn. Some tears can be treated using a splint or a cast. Other tears need to be fixed surgically.

If the injury is chronic, the ligament might not be able to heal even with treatment. In these cases, a new ligament sometimes is created using a tendon. If there is arthritis at the joint, fusing the joint so that it does not move at all might be the best option.

TREATMENT FOR LIGAMENT DAMAGE IN WRIST

Minimally-Invasive Surgery for Wrist Ligament Damage (Sprained Wrist)

Wrist arthroscopy is a wrist surgery that allows a doctor to see the inside of a joint. It is performed after a patient sustains an injury such as a fall or a twisting of the wrist and is experiencing pain, clicks or swelling. These symptoms may mean there is an internal problem of the wrist. Arthroscopy is often the best way of directly looking at the injury and repairing it. The procedure can be used to help align fractures of the wrist, remove some ganglions of the wrist, wash out infection, or remove excess joint lining associated with inflammation from conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.

Procedure
Your doctor can see the ligaments and cartilage surfaces of bones with wrist arthroscopy. Some parts of ligaments have a good blood supply and can be repaired and heal, whereas other parts do not have a blood supply and don’t heal, so they are removed.

During the procedure, a small camera fixed to the end of a narrow tube is placed through a small cut in the skin directly into the back of the wrist joint (Figure 2). The image is projected onto a television screen for better viewing. Several small cuts are used to allow the surgeon to place the camera in a number of positions to see the cartilage of each bone, the ligaments and the joint lining called synovium.

Risks
Risks of this wrist surgery can include but are not limited to:

  • Infection
  • Damage to nerves, tendons or cartilage
  • Stiffness or loss of joint motion
  • Stiffness can be addressed post-surgery with rehabilitation.

Recovery
After your surgery, you will be placed in a splint that will prevent wrist motion. This will protect the area and provide pain relief. Arthroscopy most likely does not require an overnight hospital stay. Fingers should move freely, and finger movement is often encouraged to limit swelling and stiffness. Your surgeon will provide instructions on caring for your wound, therapy, safe activities and any work or exercise restrictions. Elevating the wrist is important to prevent swelling and pain after wrist surgery.

JOINT REPLACEMENT FOR ARTHRITIC FINGERS AND WRISTS

Finger and Wrist Joint Replacement

As a hand and wrist specialist, Dr. Spiess always urges his patients to try the least invasive methods possible. Sometimes that will involve a topical anti-inflammatory or on injection of cortisone into the affected joint. However, some finger and wrist arthritis is so severe that total joint replacement becomes necessary in order to make a full recovery. 

If you’ve been struggling with severe hand or wrist pain for a long time following a traumatic injury, and conservative treatment methods have failed to provide you with relief, it’s time to start talking to a joint replacement surgeon like Dr. Spiess about your options. Using minimally-invasive techniques, Dr. Spiess can perform both finger and wrist joint replacement surgery that will offer you true, long-lasting pain relief while keeping your recovery period as quick, cost-effective, and comfortable as possible.

Ready to begin the conversation about your eligibility for hand or wrist joint replacement? You won’t find a more experienced surgeon than Alexander Spiess, MD. Schedule your first appointment with Dr. Spiess and take the first step toward living pain-free.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I do to alleviate hand and wrist pain in the short term following an injury?

If you’re in an emergency situation following a traumatic hand injury, don’t hesitate to visit the emergency room. However, if there is time between your injury and your consultation with Dr. Spiess, utilize the “RICE” method to find short term relief:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation

What types of injuries usually require total joint replacement?

Joint replacement is often a recommended solution for those whose cartilage in the hands and wrists has been compromised beyond repair. If your injury has caused lasting damage to any elements of your wrist or finger joints, particularly the cartilage, joint replacement may be the right solution for you to return to full function.

Which types of wrist surgery are best for me?

Each patient is different, as is each injury. During your initial consultation, Dr. Spiess will diagnose your condition, then work alongside you to determine the correct treatment plan for you.

How do I get started with the best hand specialist near me?

You can schedule your first appointment with Dr. Spiess right here online. Just use our online scheduling tool, or call our office if you’re more comfortable speaking on the phone.