ONS Spotlight on Hand and Upper Extremity Surgeon Dr. Matt Cantlon

Featured Doctor

Get to know hand and upper extremity surgeon Dr. Matt Cantlon and learn what drives his personal approach in caring for patients. Dr. Cantlon is Board-Certified in Orthopaedic Surgery and holds a Subspecialty Certificate in Surgery of the Hand. Dr. Cantlon sees patients at ONS in Greenwich and Stamford, CT.

What is your philosophy to your practice?

Our hands are vital to who we are, how we interact with the world and how we see ourselves in the world.  Our hands give us the dexterity to perform precise actions such as threading a needle or buttoning a shirt, while at the same time powering large actions such as swinging a hammer or digging with a shovel.  We use our hands to express ourselves as we speak, and we use them as a sensory organ to feel sharp, hot, and rough.  We use them to protect our faces in a frightening situation and we feel emotion when we use them to hold a loved one’s hands.  I believe that understanding a particular individual’s life, work and hobbies is vitally important to maximizing the function of their hands.  The needs of a concert violinist may differ significantly than those of a stone mason or of a professional hockey player.  I discuss aspects of my patient’s lives to tailor treatment to their specific needs.

I also firmly believe in educating my patients in order to empower them to share in the decision making process.  Patients who play an active role in their treatment have the best chance at optimizing their outcome.

Outside of your work, what are your personal interests?

I spend most of my time outside of work staying active with my wife and children.  I love running and spent more than a year working in an exercise physiology laboratory at Columbia University.  I have been a golfer for most of my life and enjoy both watching and playing golf and understanding how vastly different mechanics can lead to a functional golf swing.  I am an avid reader of non-fiction, have a book going at all times and, with some exceptions, read every day.

What made you choose to become an orthopedic surgeon?

I had a somewhat circuitous path to Orthopaedic Surgery.  I studied Electrical and Computer Engineering at Cornell University where I gained an appreciation for the interaction of form and function, working on projects as diverse as aerospace communication devices and nuclear fusion reactors.  I worked on Wall Street for a brief period and ultimately returned to medical school looking to have a more direct and tangible impact on my community.  Orthopaedic Surgery, and specifically Hand Surgery, was the perfect blend of academic rigor, engineering and the ability to make a difference in people’s lives.

What trends in your specialty area do you see emerging?

Performing surgery with the patient “wide awake” is the single biggest recent trend in the world of Hand Surgery.  This technique uses only local anesthesia for certain surgeries, eliminating the need for patients to undergo a sedation or general anesthesia.  This confers tremendous benefits for patients.  First and foremost, patients avoid the risks associated with anesthesia.  In many instances, such as in certain sick or elderly individuals, patients may be able to undergo a procedure that was previously too risky to perform.  Secondly, there are significantly fewer demands on patients including eliminating the need for preoperative workup such as chest xrays, blood work and EKGs, as well as the fact that patients can drive themselves on the day of surgery and do not need to fast.  Lastly, surgical outcomes have been shown to be significantly improved due to the fact that the results of the surgery can be tested in real time with an awake and comfortable patient.

How do you stay current in your field?

At ONS, we are a group that emphasizes evidence-based medicine.  As a Hand Division, we hold regular multidisciplinary conferences where we discuss various topics in hand surgery, critically evaluate new research and review challenging cases. On a monthly basis I read several of the Hand journals that publish peer-reviewed research, and are most pertinent to my practice.  I regularly attend conferences of groups that I am a member of including the American Society of Surgery for the Hand (ASSH) as well as the New York Society for Surgery of the Hand (NYSSH), which provide additional opportunities to learn from my peers and colleagues across the region.