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Hand Surgery

Training Requirements

Candidates for initial certification in hand surgery must meet all posted requirements in place at the time of application.


All requirements must be met by the time of application to the Hand Surgery Certifying Exam

Below is a general overview of the training requirements for hand surgery certification.

Primary certification in surgery is a requirement for certification in hand surgery and is part of the application process. 

Certification in hand surgery is offered in conjunction with the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) and the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery (ABOS). An applicant may pursue the certification process through only one certifying board.

Fellowship Program Requirements

Must be completed during fellowship

The following program and time requirements are currently in place for candidates applying for certification in hand surgery.

One year (48 weeks) of progressive education satisfactorily completed in a hand surgery fellowship program accredited by the ACGME.

At least 48 weeks of full-time clinical activity in the year of fellowship, regardless of the amount of operative experience obtained.

Have obtained increasing levels of responsibility during hand surgery training.

Applicants to the Hand Surgery Certifying Exam must submit for ABS review a list of at least 125 cases managed during a consecutive 15-month period within the two (2) years preceding application. Hand surgery includes only those procedures performed on the upper extremity distal to the elbow.

The 125 cases must be separated by category and meet the following minimums in at least five (5) of the following nine (9) categories:

Category – Minimum Number of Cases

  • Bone and Joint – 20
  • Nerve – 20
  • Tendon and Muscle – 20
  • Skin and Wound Problems – 14
  • Contracture and Joint Stiffness – 10
  • Tumor – 10
  • Congenital – 3
  • Microvascular – 3
  • Nonoperative – 6

Nonoperative cases are those which require significant evaluation, such as pain problems, and must be documented with consultation reports. No more than six (6) nonoperative cases will be accepted.

Complex cases can satisfy up to three (3) categories. For example, the management of a complex mutilating injury involving repair of muscle, tendon, nerve, vascular injury, and skin would count for muscle and tendon, nerve, and vascular repair, but not for the skin. This example clearly indicates a more complex operative experience than a simple, single-task surgery.

Those cases in which the involvement of two (2) categories is part of a single-focus surgery, such as the use of a tendon in ligament reconstruction and tendon interposition of the basal joint, would count as only one case.


Our exam managers are here to help.

Most questions can be answered with the information available on our website. For specific inquiries, please contact the hand surgery exam manager.

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