Woodlands Center for Special Surgery

Woodlands Center for Special Surgery SD WL 3-16_WEB1Most of us take our hands for granted until something impacts their function. Dave, a veteran commercial airline pilot, learned this when a gun in his collection accidently discharged into his hand during cleaning. Luckily, he was referred to Dr. Mark A. Ciaglia, a leader in the field of hand surgery. Dr. Ciaglia uses the latest, most advanced techniques, such as minimally invasive endoscopic and arthroscopic surgery and stem cell therapy, to help get patients back to what they love doing.

Putting an Airline Pilot’s Hand Back Together

“My injury was serious. I wasn’t just going to let the first person available operate,” Dave says. “My career as a pilot was on the line! I asked the ER surgeon if he thought he was the right person to fix my hand. He thought about it for a while, then referred me to Dr. Ciaglia.”

Dave was immediately impressed with Dr. Ciaglia. “He was honest and up front about what the surgery and recovery would entail, and helped me set realistic expectations.”

In addition to Dr. Ciaglia’s exceptional credentials and expertise, Dave appreciated his enthusiasm and upbeat personality. “He has a great attitude and he’s communicative. I came to each appointment with a list of questions. He would listen intently, then answer. I felt a real connection with Dr. Ciaglia and learned that he, too, is a pilot. He could totally relate to my anxiety about recovery and regaining my FAA medical certificate so I could fly again.”

Today, Dave can make a fist, has feeling in his hand, and has full range of motion and strength. “I wondered if I was ever going to fly again and feel blessed to have had Dr. Ciaglia as my doctor during this ordeal. Flying isn’t just my job—it’s my passion. As a commercial airline pilot, I’m living a childhood dream. Dr. Ciaglia knew what recovery meant to me, being a pilot himself.

“Dr. Ciaglia gave me my life back. Thanks to him, the physical therapy, and to my wife, Jeanette, who has been my personal nurse throughout all this, I’ll be back to work flying planes!”

Rebuilding Deborah’s Thumb Joints

Deborah has endured several problems with her hands over the years. Recently, thumb pain due to arthritis was so severe, she was getting regular injections, yet had little relief. Her rheumatologist referred her to Dr. Ciaglia.

“Dr. Ciaglia is one of the most personable doctors I’ve met. To be as passionate about what he does, to care about his patients so much, and to be as gifted as he is, he must have been born to be a hand surgeon,” Deborah says.

Deborah further applauds Dr. Ciaglia’s bedside manner. “He’s attentive and makes you feel like you’re his only patient for the day. He asks questions, then draws everything out, explaining what he will do during surgery and what to expect for recovery. He wants you to be fully informed.”

After undergoing surgery on both thumbs (first one, then the other), Deborah is ecstatic with her results. “Dr. Ciaglia gave me the use of my hands back. The difference is night and day!”

Meet the Man behind the Surgical Mask

Dr. Ciaglia’s destiny was shaped early in life. His mother injured her hand when he was a youngster. It made him think about how much we rely on our hands and motivated him to become a hand surgeon.

After earning a B.S. in biology at Illinois Wesleyan University, graduating with honors, Dr. Ciaglia completed a medical degree (Doctor of Osteopathy) from Nova Southeastern University College of Medicine in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He then trained in general and trauma surgery for five years in New York City, where he handled “every type of injury imaginable.” During this time, his fascination with “the sheer intricacy of the hands and the exacting nature of hand surgery” grew, as did his penchant for perfection. “It’s all about absolute precision in hand surgery,” he says.

Next, Dr. Ciaglia was accepted, out of 135 applicants, to the single hand surgery and microsurgical fellowship at Beth Israel Albert Einstein in Manhattan. He trained under world-renowned hand surgeon Dr. Charles Melone, and got to work with high-profile musicians and treat some of the New York Yankees. As he gained recognition, he was invited to speak at state and national hand surgery meetings.

After his fellowship, Dr. Ciaglia and his wife moved to Texas and put down roots in The Woodlands. “It’s a great place to live and just be a family. My wife, Susanne, and our children, Gianna and Dominick, love everything about The Woodlands, from the food and festivals to special nights out,” says Dr. Ciaglia, a Chicago native.

When he’s not helping patients or enjoying time with his family, Dr. Ciaglia is usually flying planes. He loves performing aerobatics and stunts. “It’s my escape. Like hand surgery, flying requires focus and precision. The better I become as a pilot, the better I become as a hand surgeon, and vice versa.”

Changing Lives and Leadership

One of Dr. Ciaglia’s goals is to educate people about hand surgery. He sees patients of all ages, from all professions and walks of life, including elite athletes.

“There many misconceptions out there,” he says. “I see patients who have been suffering for years and were told the pain and disability is just something they have to live with. They break down in tears when I tell them there’s hope and the chance of a good outcome.”

Dr. Ciaglia also works closely with other specialists, primary care doctors, and occupational therapists to develop post-operative and even nonsurgical treatment plans that return motion and strength to the affected extremity.

“I don’t see age when I see patients. Whether you’re 30 or 70, I work diligently to get your hands back to how they felt when you were 18,” Dr. Ciaglia adds.

Dr. Mark Ciaglia is welcoming new patients. Call to schedule an appointment today. Visit WCFSpecialSurgery.com for more information.

Unlocking the Body’s Regenerative Potential

Dr. Ciaglia has worked extensively with regenerative techniques that unlock the body’s natural ability to heal, such as stem cell therapy.

“Stem cell therapy is the next big wave in medicine,” says Dr. Ciaglia. “Injecting stem cells around a surgical site decreases the body’s inflammatory response, thereby promoting faster healing with less pain. I also use stem cell-infused tissue sheets, laying them around nerves and tendons, to help improve recovery time and reduce the potential for scarring.”

  • World-class physician; compassionate, caring surgeon
  • Diagnoses and treats all upper extremity issues, simple to complex
  • Specializes in minimally invasive procedures, endoscopic and arthroscopic
  • Treats all ages from pediatric congenital to end-stage arthritis
  • Works with team coaches to return athletes safely to the playing field
  • Comprehensive fracture care
  • Covers many The Woodlands area ERs for hand injuries
  • On-site digital X-rays
  • Same day appointments almost always made available


Mark A. Ciaglia, DO

17450 St. Lukes Way, Suite 390

The Woodlands, Texas 77384

(936) 242-1437


Text: Annette Brooks

Photo: Gina Gallagher

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