The National Institutes of Health, American Medical Association, and US National Library of Medicine recommend that educational material for patients be written at a sixth-grade reading level. The purpose of this study is to assess the complexity of hand surgery information on academic plastic and orthopedic surgery websites.An online search was performed for all hand surgery patient education materials provided by institutions with plastic and orthopedic surgery training programs. Readability analyses were conducted using the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease, Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, Simple Measure of Gobbledygook Index, Gunning Fog Score, Automated Readability Index, and Coleman-Liau Index. A 2-tailed z test was used to compare means.Seventy-six institutions with both plastic and orthopedic surgery training programs were identified; 42 had educational material available online. The average readability for all hand-related information was at the 11.92 grade reading level. Information regarding de Quervain tenosynovitis had the highest grade level for all plastic surgery procedures (13.45). Hand arthritis had the highest grade level for all orthopedic surgery procedures (12.82). Ganglion cysts had the lowest grade level for both plastic and orthopedic surgery (10.15 and 11.01, respectively; P = .12). Carpal tunnel release was the most commonly described procedure overall. There were no differences in text complexity among geographic regions.Online patient resources for common hand ailments are too complex for the average patient to understand. Efforts should be made to provide materials at the recommended sixth-grade reading level to improve patient education and improve the physician-patient relationship.
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