Online Medical News and Information for Hand Surgeons:
The Eye of the Needle in the Haystack.

I love to search for information - it's the way I was raised. My father answered most factual questions or arguments in the family with the call "Let's look it up!" - the signal for us to all circle around the dictionary or encyclopedia. That's fun, doing a swat mission on an organized resource. What's not as fun is trying to find an info-bite in a disorganized mess, like my office, or worse yet, the internet. But I still love to search, and the internet is a one stop shopping area for information. Here are some of the strategies that I currently use to make the most out of what's available online for free.

Browsing a specific hand topic

You might, for example, need to research nondisplaced scaphoid fractures. Where to look?

The motherlode, always improving, is Medline. The National Library of Medicine's Medline search engine is called PubMed, at . Bring up that page in your browser, enter "nondisplaced scaphoid" and you'll see a list of citations:

You can click on each to read the abstracts one at a time, but it's faster to use the "abstract" view:

Choose this from the drop down menu next to the "display" button, then click on the "display" button, and you can browse abstracts all on one page:

PubMed defaults to 20 citations per page, but you can put more on display so that you don't have to keep clicking on "next page" for more. To do this, choose up to 500 to be displayed at a time

and then click on the "display" button again. Finally, if you want to review your search in your favorite word processor rather than your web browser, choose "file" in the menu next to the "Send to" button

and then click on the "Send to" button This will prompt you to save a file called "query.fcgi" - but it's probably better at that point to enter something like "scaphoid.txt" as the name for the saved file so that your computer will know that it's a text file. This little step gives you much more freedom to play with the search results - and it saves the entire search output, not just the ones displayed on your current browser page.

OK, Medline is a bit too stuffy- what about the people's search engine? Lucky for you, Google recently added PubMed to its database. Go to Google, enter "nondisplaced scaphoid" (without the quotes), and you'll get a wider selection, including both PubMed results and online articles not referenced by PubMed. It's a bit more cluttered, and will include links to lists of personal publications, scientific session program headings and other title-only links, but is a helpful additional resource. Two search syntax tips are helpful to narrow your Google searches. First, use quotes around exact phrases (e.g. "nondisplaced scaphoid") to weed out links to pages that have both "nondisplaced" and "scaphoid" but not the actual phrase. Second, add "index of" (with the quotes) to your search if you are looking more for a directory of files - especially helpful if browsing for images.

What if you want to find a reference that's in a book, not a journal? What if the title of the book doesn't have "nondisplaced scaphoid" in its title or chapter headings? Again, lucky for you, Amazon has just upped the ante with a full text "Search inside the book" feature. This option is a bit controversial, and may face copyright challenges, but for now, it's available. Go to Amazon, (you have to sign in as a member, but it's free), select "books", enter "nondisplaced scaphoid" (without the quotes), and boom! - a list of books with these words in the text, along with a little text clip showing the words in the actual relevant text from the book. This is a huge step forward in on line searching.

What if you're lazy? Again, you're in luck. e-Hand has a search tool which will let you enter a search phrase, and then let you choose the search engine

This is available at, and includes a variety of different databases engines, including the ones mentioned above.

What's new?
Want to keep up to date on breaking reports in hand surgery? Several search engines can be configured to sort their output by date, starting with the most recent files. Preconfigured "most recent" hand surgery searches, including PubMed, DocGuide and Google News are also available at Want to be able to impress your colleagues with your knowledge about non-hand breaking medical news? Check out Medline plus news at This list, updated daily, links to all top medical stories in the news from a large number of sites - very interesting casual reading, always current, highly recommended.

Have fun and happy searching!

C Eaton