Terms and medical definitions

The use of fiberoptic technology with a viewing moniter to look inside a joint to make a diagnosis and treat the problem. This can now be done in some small joints in the hand as well as wrist, elbow and shoulder.

A general term often referring to impingement syndrome of the shoulder, a painful condition related to inflammation of the shoulder rotator cuff tendons. Bursitis can also occur in other lubricating sacs around joints, such as the elbow (olecranon bursitis).

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Compression of the median nerve inside a bony canal in the wrist called the carpal tunnel. This leads to pain and numbness in the hand and is easily treatable when recognized. It has NO relationship to typing or other repetitive activities despite common misconceptions.

Colles´ Fracture
Very common fracture at wrist involving the end of the radius forearm bone. Treated with cast or surgical means depending upon extent of displacement. Frequently seen in older patients with osteoporosis

Refers to fragmentation of a fracture.Cortisone – A generic term for a corticosteroid which is a class of drugs used to decrease inflammation and pain in either oral, intravenous or locally injectable form. It is a very helpful medication if not used excessively.

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
Compression of the ulnar nerve at the elbow, frequently referred to as the “funny bone” . This condition is usually diagnosed with nerve conduction studies and may require transposition (moving) the nerve out of its tight tunnel and into a protective soft tissue environment

Dequervain's Tendonitis
A common, very painful tendonitis in the wrist near the base of the thumb. Easily treated with a corticosteroid injection and occasionally a minor surgical procedure.

Dupuytren's Contracture
A condition causing fibrosis and contracture of the soft tissue (palmar fascia) of the palmar aspect of the hand. Severe contracture limiting hand function may need surgical treatment usually with good restoration of function and appearance.

Inflammation of the bony prominences at the elbow. Lateral epicondylitis is better known as tennis elbow and medial epicondylitis is golfer’s elbow.

A break in a bone. A displaced fracture indicates a break that is out of its normal anatomic position while a comminuted fractures means it is fragmented in several pieces.

Fusion - (Arthrodesis)
A surgical technique where a joint is rendered stiff in order to eliminate pain and restore stability. Certain joints, such as the distal interphalangeal and wrist, are best suited for arthrodesis, whereas others are indicated for arthroplasty (replacement) such as elbow and shoulder.

Fluid filled cyst often seen in the wrist, both dorsal and palmar aspects, that may be painful and/or unsightly and require removal in that case.

Hand Surgeon
Specialist with either orthopedic and/or plastic surgery background with further subspecialized training in surgery of the hand and upper extremity often including the shoulder. This includes nonsurgical treatment which may include medications and therapy.

Upper arm bone that can fracture in different segments and often treated by hand surgeons particularly if any associated nerve injury.

Impingement Syndrome
Common spectrum of shoulder problems related to degenerative problems of the rotator cuff and the overlying bursa (lubricating sac). Treatment may involve anti-inflammatories, injection, therapy and surgery, usually arthroscopic.

Jersey Finger
Traumatic condition, often sports related, where flexor tendon insertion ruptures near end of finger leading to incomplete flexion (bending) of digit. Opposite process of mallet finger.

Thickening of scar on skin of patients who have a predisposition to this type of wound healing.

Kienbock´s Disease
A painful condition in the wrist where a small bone called the lunate loses its blood supply (avascular necrosis) and dies leading to possible collaps of this bone and later arthritis.

Lateral epicondylitis - (Tennis Elbow)
Common condition, unrelated to tennis, that is a painful inflammatory condition where the elbow extensor tendons are inflamed on the lateral (outside) aspect of the elbow. Treated with injections, therapy and occasionally surgery in advanced cases.

Soft tissue structure that connects two bones together. Rupture or tearing can lead to pain and/or dysfunction of that joint.

Critical bone in the wrist lying next to the scaphoid which articulates with the radius forearm bone.

Mallet finger (baseball finger)
Traumatic injury where terminal extensor tendon of finger ruptures or pulls of small bone fragment leading to inability to extend (straighten) last joint (distal interphalangeal) of finger.

Long bones in the palm which articulate with the phalanges in the fingers.

Surgical technique that requires the use of an operating microscope. This technique has nothing to do with the size of the incision but rather the use of magnification to repair small structures such as small arteries, veins and nerves that are barely visible with the naked eye. Arthroscopy uses tiny incisions but has nothing to do with microsurgery.

Orthopedic Surgeon
Surgical specialist dedicated to treatment of the musculoskeletal system, by both conservative and surgical means. They can subspecialize in areas such as the hand and upper extremity, spine, foot and ankle, pediatric etc.Osteoarthritis – Wear and tear arthritis commonly seen in older people but of unknown cause. It can be slow or rapidly progressive possibly requiring surgical treatment of a variety of joints.

Bones inside fingers named according to digit and if farthest from palm (distal) or closest (proximal) .

Long bone of forearm that rotates around fixed ulna to allow palm down (pronation) and palm up (supination) positions of wrist.

Reflex Sympathetic Syndrome
Painful misunderstood condition now know as complex regional pain syndrome type I. It is due to an overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system and is treated with therapy , oral agents, and often a series of nerve blocks administered by a pain management specialist.

The surgical reattachment of a completely severed digit or limb. This requires the use of microsurgery and an operating team experienced in this technique. The amputated part must be kept cool in a moist gauze protected from direct contact with ice in order to minimize tissue damage until the blood flow (perfusion) is surgically re-established to the severed part.

Rheumatoid Arthritis
A chronic inflammatory, autoimmune condition that involves many body systems, particularly the joints (musculoskeletal). It commonly affects the hands and even elbow/shoulders causing pain, disability and severe deformity. It requires medical treatment by a rheumatologist and occasionally surgical reconstruction of the more severely involved joints.

Rotator Cuff
A common cuff of tendinous tissue made up of 4 separate muscle tendons that come together around the head of the humerus in the shoulder joint to help stabilize it. Tears are commonly seen in either acute or repetitive trauma and in degenerative processes seen in older patients.

Rotator cuff tear

A kidney shaped bone in the wrist near the base of the thumb that is critical to wrist function. Fractures are common here and can lead to healing problems due to relatively poor blood supply to this bone that may require bone stimulation (with a device) and/or surgery usually consisting of bone grafting.

Soft tissue structures that connect a muscle to a bone and render function across a joint. These may require repair or even transfer to substitute function in conditions where a joint is disabled.

Tennis Elbow
see lateral epicondylitis.


Trigger Finger
(Flexor stenosing tenosynovitis) Inflammatory process of flexor tendon in palm that leads to pain, catching and even locking of the involved digit. Often associated with carpal tunnel syndrome since underlying cause of both conditions is tendonitis (tendon inflammation).

Long bone of forearm (fixed) starting at elbow tip and going to small finger side of wrist.