San Francisco Giants’ Hand Surgeon Saves Fingers and Hands

By Ed Carpenter

Surgeon Scott Hansen stands in a baseball field with Logan Webb and two men, who are part of the San Franscisco Giants' training staff.
Hand surgeon Scott Hansen, MD (third from left), with San Francisco Giants pitcher Logan Webb (left) and members of the Giants’ training staff.

When hand surgeon Scott Hansen, MD, operates on patients, he uses miniature surgical instruments, a fraction of the usual size, and relies on an operating microscope to see the tiny stitches he uses to connect blood vessels and nerves as small as a pencil tip.

If that isn’t stressful enough, he’s often called on to save a child’s finger or hand after being accidentally slammed in a door or similar injury. And then there are the multimillion-dollar athletes he treats as the San Francisco Giants’ hand surgeon.

We talked to the chief of plastic surgery at UC San Francisco about the public’s misconception of plastic surgery and what makes UCSF Health’s hand surgery care so exceptional.

What are common cases you see as a hand surgeon?

I see many common hand conditions such as Carpal tunnel syndrome and trigger finger cases, where a tendon becomes inflamed and hinders finger function. I see a variety of hand fractures and traumatic finger injuries – where a finger gets slammed in a door, crushed by a hammer or cut with a knife or saw.

Surgeon Scott Hansen looks into a microscope as he performs microsurgery on an arm.
Scott Hansen, MD, performing “microsurgery.” Stitches that are often less than 1 millimeter require the aid of microscopes and miniature instruments.

You’re a specialist in “microsurgery.” What’s that about?

Hand surgery is somewhat synonymous with microsurgery. One of the things I’m a specialist in is transplanting tissue – for example, rebuilding a finger that was cut off using tissue from somewhere else on the body.

When I reattach a finger or transplant a tendon from somewhere else in the body, I often have to stitch together blood vessels and nerves in fingers and hands that are 1 millimeter or smaller. I use miniature surgical instruments for this and an operating microscope to see what I’m doing with precision.

Do people have misconceptions when they hear that you’re a plastic surgeon?

The public often associates plastic surgery with facelifts, tummy tucks and similar visual enhancements to a person’s appearance. In contrast, I focus on reconstructing hands and fingers after an injury or deformity to help restore as much movement and function as possible back to patients.

If a family member asked you if they should consider UCSF Health for hand surgery care, what would you say?

I’d say UCSF Health’s hand surgery care is unparalleled in the Bay Area. We see a lot of complicated cases, and we know how to deal with them successfully. A big advantage is that we offer a comprehensive approach to hand injuries. We bring together specialists on the plastic surgery side, experts in soft tissue, and on the orthopedic side, experts in muscles and bones, to achieve the best outcome.

We also have a large support team to help patients with their recovery.

You’re the San Francisco Giants hand surgeon. How did that happen?

I first connected with the Giants in 2010. The team was in Los Angeles playing the Dodgers and one of the Giants’ players was hit in the face with a ball, causing a fracture. I happened to be in LA watching the game on television and saw the injury. The Giants’ physician called UCSF Health, and they suggested contacting me since I was there in town. I assessed the player the next morning and got him treated.

In 2014, the team was between hand surgeons and reached out again. I’ve been working for them for 10 years. I played baseball growing up, and I’m a huge baseball and Giants fan. I see both the major and minor league players, but also everyone who works for the Giants and even their families.

What kind of injuries do you see working for the Giants?

Hand injuries are common in baseball players. I see injuries from sliding into bases, getting hit with a pitch, diving to catch a ball and landing on a hand. I’ve seen all the players over the years, from Evan Longoria to Buster Posey. They do not always require surgery but require close attention to get back to playing. It’s great to be part of such a world-class organization.