Trigger Finger

Trigger Finger Release Surgery

Trigger finger release surgery is performed to widen the tunnel that your tendons pass through in your finger or thumb and to resolve a condition known as trigger finger.

What is trigger finger surgery?

Trigger finger is a common and painful condition that restricts your finger or thumb movement. It affects the tendons in your finger or thumb and causes them to lock or catch as they bend towards your palm.

Trigger finger occurs if the tendons in your finger or thumb become inflamed, and when you bend your finger or thumb the inflamed tendon is pulled through a tendon sheath tunnel that is now too narrow. Your tendon sheath may also thicken and make the opening of the tunnel smaller. Your tendon may become momentarily stuck in the tight tunnel and as it slips through it might make a snap or pop.

What are the symptoms of trigger finger?

Symptoms of trigger finger include:

  • Pain when bending or straightening your trigger digit.
  • Tenderness in your palm.
  • Clicking of your trigger digit during movement, or locking in a bent position. The digit may need to be straightened using your other hand.
  • Stiffness in your trigger digit.

What happens during trigger finger release surgery?

If you think you may have trigger finger, it’s worth seeing your GP. They may suggest that you avoid activities that are causing you pain to see if this helps to relieve your symptoms. Over the counter pain killers may also be useful.

Treatment for trigger finger depends on your symptom’s severity and how long you've had them. Mild cases of trigger finger can get better without treatment.

Treatment options for trigger finger release

Initially non-surgical treatment may be recommended including non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, splinting where your finger is strapped to hold it straight, and corticosteroid injections to relieve your symptoms.

If you have severe trigger finger or other treatments haven’t worked, then trigger finger release surgery will be recommended.

What does trigger finger release surgery involve?

Surgery for trigger finger is normally performed on an outpatient basis, under local anaesthetic and takes around 20 minutes. There are two types of trigger finger release surgery:

  • Open trigger finger release surgery – this is generally the preferred option. Your hand surgeon will make a small incision in your palm and carefully cut through the tendon sheath to make it wider.
  • Percutaneous trigger finger release surgery - a needle is inserted into the base of your affected digit and is used to slice thought your ligament. There are no cuts or scars but there are nerves and arteries very close to the tendon sheath that could easily be damaged.

What are the benefits of trigger finger release surgery?

The benefits of trigger finger release surgery include regaining the ability to properly move the affected fingers, and normal use of your hand.

What are the complications of trigger finger release surgery?

Complications are rare with trigger finger release surgery. However, as with any surgery, complications could occur and include:

  • Infection
  • Pain or stiffness in your finger
  • A tender scar
  • Nerve damage
  • Bowstringing - where the tendon is in the wrong position
  • Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) - pain and swelling in your hand that usually resolves after a few months.

How long will recovery be after trigger finger release surgery?

Immediately following surgery most people can move their fingers. You may feel soreness in your palm. You may be advised to have physiotherapy for finger exercises to help loosen your finger. You can expect recovery to take a few weeks. Swelling and stiffness may take up to six months to go.

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