A hand surgeon begins as an orthopedic, plastic or general surgeon before receiving specialized training in problems of the hand, wrist and forearm, according to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand. Some hand specialists also treat arms, elbows and shoulders. They also often recommend or administer non-surgical treatments.
The American Society for Surgery of the Hand offers active membership to U.S. physicians who have received a full year of hand specialist training. The organization's offical website also indicates that successful applicants must earn the Certification in the Subspecialty of Surgery of the Hand from the board for their medical specialty of orthopedics, plastic surgery or general surgery.
Another organization, the American Association for Hand Surgery, does not require the same certification that the American Society for Surgery of the Hand does for active membership, but it mandates that applicants receive training in hand surgery during a residency or fellowship. Its board of directors and membership committee judge whether an applicant's experience and competence are sufficient, according to the American Association for Hand Surgery's website.
Hand or wrist conditions that may benefit from surgical treatment include carpal tunnel syndrome, tendon injuries, osteoarthritis, cartilage damage and torn ligaments, according to Washington Hospital Healthcare System. However, hand surgeons are trained to diagnose and treat all conditions of the hand and wrist, and they may prescribe treatments such as injections, splints or hand therapy for those that do not require surgery, according to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand.