Ask Dr. Parisi: Questions To Ask About Hand Surgery
Upper extremity surgeon Dr. Parisi recommends a checklist of questions for patients considering hand surgery.
Most people with hand conditions prefer nonsurgical treatment to the prospect of hand surgery. But when a hand condition doesn’t respond to conservative therapies, it may be time to consider surgical options. “I always discuss the full range of treatment alternatives,” says upper extremity surgeon Dr. Debra Parisi. “If a patient is truly fearful of surgery, I respect that. But whenever surgery is under consideration, I encourage patients to ask questions that help them understand their options.”
“My patients step into my office with a range of personal interests and activities they want to get back to,” explains Dr. Parisi. “The goals of a teen volleyball player are very different from the goals of an older woman who wants to knit and play with her grandchildren. Patients also have very different perceptions about hand surgery and treatment management.”
Questions that help you establish realistic surgical expectations for hand surgery
“Some people say, ‘Sign me up for surgery. I want to get better as quickly as possible.’ Others tell me, ‘Surgery is the last thing I want, and if you suggest it, I’m out the door.’ I think it’s important to respect all of those perceptions and work with the patient. And if a patient is open to surgery, I want them to make an informed decision.” To that end, Dr. Parisi encourages patients to ask questions that help them understand their surgical choices and set realistic expectations.
- What can I expect before, during, and after my hand surgery?
It’s important for patients contemplating surgery to understand what the surgical procedure is going to involve. “I want to help alleviate fears, answer questions, and really help guide the patient through the process,” says Dr. Parisi. “As a surgeon, I may have performed a certain procedure many times, but for a patient, the entire process may be new and scary. I may know that a five-minute surgery has very low risk and can really improve quality of life. But a patient may not understand that. If I am recommending surgery, I need to let the patient know what his or her experience is going to be like.”
- Can I do anything prior to hand surgery to improve my surgical outcome?
“This is a fair question, and the answer is diagnosis dependent,” notes Dr. Parisi. “Certainly after a wrist fracture and before we take people to surgery, we want them to try to move their fingers right away. The more motion you have before surgery, the more and better motion you’ll have afterward. Sometimes there really are steps you can take to improve your outcome. One is staying as mobile as possible before surgery to prevent stiffness afterward.”
- What will my recovery after hand surgery be like?
“Patients should ask about whether they’ll be immobilized afterward,” says Dr. Parisi. “People sometimes don’t realize how much they take hand mobility for granted. If you will be immobilized, you want to know for how long. Will you need assistance with daily tasks? Are there going to be stitches? If so, when are they going to come out? When should you expect to be back to your activities?”
- If you have specific goals, discuss them before your surgery
“It’s important for patients to really specify the activities they want to get back to,” notes Dr. Parisi. “A lot of times, we’ll say, ‘Oh, you’ll be good to go in three to four weeks.’ What we mean is that you can perform the normal activities of daily living. You’ll be good to get up, shower, eat breakfast, drive a car, go to work, and sit comfortably at your desk. You might not be able to windsurf. If your goal is to get back to windsurfing, discuss this with your surgeon so we can address that goal and help you manage your expectations.”
Informed decisions support successful outcomes
“Ultimately, the patient makes the final decision about what they want for their treatment plan,” states Dr. Parisi. “A thoughtful conversation with your hand surgeon prepares you to make the decision that is best for you. Some patients still may want to avoid surgery after understanding their options. That’s fine. I simply want a patient’s decision to be informed, and not a decision made out of fear or driven by unrealistic expectations.”
Summit Orthopedics offers upper extremity expertise and personalized care
Summit Orthopedics is home to fellowship-trained hand surgeons who have received the highest levels of training and exclusively provide care for conditions of the hand, wrist, and elbow. These orthopedic hand surgeons practice in Vadnais Heights, Woodbury, Eagan, Apple Valley, Blaine, Hastings, and St. Paul, Minnesota.
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