Orthopaedic surgeons, plastic surgeons, and general surgeons are all licensed to "practice" hand surgery in the United States. Each of these types of surgeons completes similar undergraduate, medical school, and internship requirements.
The internship and second-year residency in general surgery serves to acquaint the young surgeon with the basics of surgical technique. After this training, the Orthopaedic surgery resident begins to specialize by focusing on musculoskeletal, neurological, and vascular conditions of the spine, pelvis, and extremities. There is extensive training in the treatment of fractures and dislocations, arthritis, and sports related injuries. After residency, hand & upper extremity surgeons go on to fellowship training, focusing on the intricate anatomy, physiology, and pathology of injury and diseases of the upper limb. Although most accredited hand & upper extremity surgery fellowships are designed for surgeons with training in Orthopaedic surgery, there are some hand surgery fellowships designed to train surgeons with backgrounds in plastic and general surgery. However, these surgeons limit their practice to the hand and therefore are less familiar with complex conditions involving the shoulder, elbow, and wrist. The plastic surgery programs tend to have more of a focus on microsurgery.
Hand and Upper Extremity Surgeon Training
• Undergraduate degree (B.S. or B.A.)
• Medical school, 4 years
Harvard/Beth Israel Hospital:
• Internship/ residency in general surgery, 1-2 years
Harvard Massachusetts General Hospital:
• Residency in Orthopaedic surgery, 3-5 years 4 (minimum 6 months hand surgery, 6 months sports medicine, 7 months pediatric surgery, 6 months trauma surgery)
Roosevelt Hand Society:
• Fellowship in hand & upper extremity, 1 year (Includes training in surgery of the shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand)
• Board Certification in Orthopaedic Surgery (Must be in practice for at least 2 years)
• Certificate of Added Qualification in Hand Surgery (Must be Board Certified in Orthopaedic Surgery; Plastic Surgery or General surgery)