How Long Does Hand And Wrist Surgery Take?

So you’ve got a hand or wrist issue causing you pain or loss of function, and your doctor has said surgery is the best option to fix it. Makes sense you’d wonder, how long is this going to take anyway? This quick read gives the lowdown on typical surgery duration for some common hand and wrist procedures. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and we want you to feel informed on what’s ahead.

Understanding Hand and Wrist Surgery Procedures

The time it takes for hand and wrist surgery can vary depending on the specific procedure. Some surgeries may only take an hour or two, while more complex surgeries can take 3-6 hours. The good news is that modern surgical techniques and tools allow many hand and wrist surgeries to be done on an outpatient basis, so you can recover at home. Some of the most common types of hand and wrist surgeries include:

Carpal tunnel release

This relieves pressure on the median nerve in the wrist. It usually takes about an hour and recovery time is around 2 weeks.

Trigger finger release

This releases the tendon in the finger that is stuck in a bent position. It typically takes 30-60 minutes and recovery is around 4 to 6 weeks.

De Quervain’s release

This releases the tendon sheath in the wrist that is inflamed. It usually takes about an hour with a recovery time of 4 to 6 weeks.

Fracture repair

Broken bones in the fingers, hands or wrists are stabilized using plates, screws, or pins. The time depends on the severity of the break, but can take 2-4 hours. Recovery can take 6 weeks to 3 months.


Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure using small incisions and instruments with cameras to diagnose and treat joint problems. It usually takes 1 to 2 hours with a recovery time of 3 to 4 weeks.

Tendon repair

Damaged or ruptured tendons in the hand are reattached. The time depends on how many tendons need repair, but can take 2-4 hours. Recovery usually takes 6 weeks to 3 months and includes physical therapy. The specific procedure your doctor recommends will depend on factors like the severity of your condition, joints involved, and other medical issues. Be sure to discuss the expected duration and recovery for your orthopedic surgeon. While the hands and wrists are intricate parts of the body, improvements in surgical techniques have made many procedures relatively quick with minimal scarring and downtime.

Factors That Determine Surgery Duration

The time it takes to perform hand and wrist surgery can vary depending on several factors. Some of the main things that influence how long your procedure may last include:

The type of surgery

Simple procedures like carpal tunnel release tend to be quicker, around 30 to 60 minutes.
More complex surgeries such as wrist replacement or multiple tendon repairs typically take 2 to 3 hours.

Number of areas being addressed

If you’re having surgery on multiple fingers, wrists or areas of the hand at once, the surgery will naturally take more time. Each additional procedure adds to the total time.

Severity of the condition

Surgeries to correct severe injuries, extensive damage or long-term conditions usually require more time compared to minor issues. For example, a full fusion of multiple wrist bones due to advanced arthritis would take longer than fixing a small fracture.

Your surgeon’s experience

An experienced orthopedic surgeon who has performed the procedure many times can often work more efficiently, reducing time in the operating room. Surgeons still in training may take longer, as the supervising surgeon guides them through the steps.

Additional procedures

Sometimes surgeons will perform other procedures in conjunction with the primary hand or wrist surgery. For example, a nerve graft or tendon transfer. Any extra procedures will add to the total duration.

Patient factors

Things like your overall health, anatomy, pain tolerance and ability to remain still during the procedure can affect the time required. The surgeon may need to take extra precautions or the surgery could be more technically challenging in some cases.

The most important thing is that enough time is taken to perform your surgery thoroughly and ensure the best possible outcome. While quick procedures are convenient, quality and safety should never be compromised for speed. Talk to your orthopedic surgeon about any concerns you have regarding the anticipated length of your surgery.

Recovering After Hand or Wrist Surgery

Recovering from hand or wrist surgery can take several months. The recovery process involves resting, managing pain, attending physical therapy, and slowly easing back into normal activities.


Get lots of rest in the days immediately following surgery. Keep your hand elevated and apply ice for 10 to 20 minutes at a time, a few times per day to reduce swelling. Your doctor will advise you on when you can start gentle hand and wrist exercises. Be patient through the recovery process. Pushing yourself too quickly can lead to complications and delay your recovery.

Pain management

You will experience some pain, swelling, and stiffness. Your doctor will prescribe medication for pain management. Follow the instructions carefully and let your doctor know if your pain is not being adequately controlled.

Physical therapy

Physical therapy is a key part of recovering mobility and strength. Once your incisions have healed and swelling has decreased, a physical therapist will guide you through gentle exercises to improve range of motion and flexibility. The therapist will also show you how to prevent stiffness and weakness. Complete all exercises as directed for the best outcome.

Returning to normal activities

As your pain and swelling improve, and you gain strength and range of motion, you can slowly return to light activities. Your doctor will determine when it is safe to drive again, return to work, and resume sports or hobbies. Be very cautious at first and avoid any activity that causes pain. It can take 3 to 6 months to return to more strenuous activities.

The most important things are to be patient through your recovery, attend all follow-up appointments, follow your doctor’s recommendations carefully, and call your orthopedic surgeon right away if you notice signs of infection or other complications. With time and dedication to the recovery process, you can get back to using your hand and wrist normally again.

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