ONS Physician Spotlight on Hand & Upper Extremity Specialist Dr. Mark VitaleFeatured Doctor
Get to know hand and upper extremity surgeon Dr. Mark Vitale and learn what drives his personal approach in caring for patients. Dr. Vitale is Board-Certified in Orthopaedic Surgery and holds a Subspecialty Certificate in Surgery of the Hand. Dr. Vitale sees patients at ONS in Greenwich and Stamford, CT.
What is your practice philosophy?
I am dedicated to treating people with hand and upper extremity injuries and conditions in an individualized way to customize the treatment plan that works well for them. The hand is an extremely complex anatomical structure and is crucial to the things that make us human – writing, using tools, playing sports, creating art – and I take great satisfaction in helping people regain function that may be compromised.
What made you chose to become a hand surgeon?
I had some great mentors in my medical training. One specific inflection point for me was when I scrubbed into a surgery with one of my orthopaedic residency mentors for a surgery called a “thumb pollicization”. That is a surgery to treat children born without a thumb in which an index finger can be reconstructed to form a new thumb. It was a very complex and elegant surgical procedure, but I was shocked to see the young patient 3 months after surgery when he was using his new thumb as if nothing happened. Cosmetically and functionally, it looked and worked like a normal thumb, and his parents were so happy to see him writing, coloring, and using his hand in ways that were never before possible. I thought what a wonderful career if I can do something that impactful for people and families.
What trends in your specialty area do you see emerging?
There are numerous trends in our field of hand surgery. One of them is nonoperative care of patients with Dupuytren’s contractures of the fingers, a condition which can prevent people from opening their fingers. While in the past surgery was the only option, today an injectable enzyme called Xiaflex has changed the way we can treat this condition without surgery in a minimally invasive way. It is now rare that I need to consider surgery for this condition today.
Another trend is in the amazing advances in peripheral nerve repair. When people have injuries or lacerations to nerves that give sensation to or control muscles to the hand and upper extremity, we now have a vast array of microsurgical techniques and nerve grafts that can be utilized to restore function after injuries that were previously untreatable. Lastly the advent of “wide-awake hand surgery” has been an incredible advantage for patients. Now we can do numerous minor surgical hand procedures using a special technique of local anesthetic instead of needing to give patients general anesthesia. People undergoing surgeries such as trigger finger releases, tendon repairs or carpal tunnel releases no longer need to take the entire day off or be exposed to the risks or grogginess of general anesthesia.
How do you stay current in your field?
I am fortunate to have the opportunity to be active in research in problems of the hand, wrist and upper extremity through our laboratory at the ONS Foundation. Many of our studies have been published and I have presented many of them conferences both locally and nationally. I am an active member of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, where I sit on leadership panels to help guide the practice and art of hand surgery. I am also a consultant reviewer for the top research journals in hand surgery, including the Journal of Hand Surgery, Journal of Wrist Surgery and Hand.
Outside of work, what are your personal interests?
I thoroughly enjoy spending time with my family and being a father. As a first-generation Italian American, I also love to travel and explore other countries and cultures. My wife and I very much look forward to getting back to a post-Covid travel world!