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Trigger Finger Release Surgery Procedure and Treatments

9th Jun 2021

If you have a trigger finger, you’re likely to be familiar with the pain and stiffness that comes from having a finger or thumb that’s stuck in a bent position. It can also hurt whether or not you’re using your hand.

For this reason, you may feel frustrated because it puts a limit on what you can or can’t do such as buttoning your clothes to texting to playing a video game. Luckily, there are ways to treat your trigger finger such as surgery, physiotherapy, and medications.

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, trigger finger release surgery is generally recommended for severe cases. After the surgery, you can bend and straighten the affected finger without experiencing any pain. 

In this article, we discuss the procedures involved in trigger finger release surgery, other types of surgical treatment, and what you can expect during trigger finger surgery recovery exercises.

Trigger Finger Release Surgery: Patient’s Information Guide

What Causes Trigger Finger?

This condition, also known as stenosing synovitis, usually occurs when one of the tendons that run along your fingers and thumbs is swollen. The swelling makes it difficult for the affected tendon to slide through its membrane (tendon sheath), causing you to experience pain and stiffness.

The swelling can also cause a section of the tendon to form into a small lump (nodule) at the base of your affected finger or thumb. When that happens, the tendons can get trapped in the tendon sheath, causing your affected finger or thumb to be temporarily bent. It may suddenly break free, releasing your bent finger.

Who’s Most at Risk?

The exact cause of trigger finger remains unknown but you’re more at risk of developing trigger finger if:

  • You’re a female because trigger finger is more common in women than men
  • You’re in your 40s or 50s
  • You’ve had a previous hand injury
  • Your work or activities involve repetitive gripping movement
  • You have health conditions like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, carpal tunnel syndrome or De Quervain’s disease

How is Trigger Finger Treated?

For some people, their trigger finger may get better without treatment. But for some people, if their trigger finger is left untreated, there’s a high chance that the affected finger or thumb could remain in a bent position permanently.

If you need a trigger finger treatment, your treatment options will depend on considerations such as the amount of pain you’re in, whether it’s associated with other medical problems, and how much it’s affecting your life.

Generally, there are two types of treatment options – surgical and non-surgical. The former is only recommended if the latter such as medication, splinting, steroid injections, and physical therapy have failed to release your constricted tendon sheath. 

In most cases, surgery is effective for a trigger finger release as the condition is less likely to return in the treated finger or thumb. Also, the surgical procedure may take less than an hour, so you don’t have to stay in the hospital overnight. During the surgery, you’ll be given a local anaesthetic, so you’ll be awake but unable to feel anything in your hand.

Open Trigger Finger Release Surgery

This is another alternative to percutaneous trigger finger release surgery, which requires a small incision. Similarly, you’ll be given a local anaesthetic and once it takes effect, your surgeon will make a small incision in the palm of your hand. For trigger thumb, the incision is in the pad of your thumb. 

Once the incision is made, the surgeon will locate the tendon sheath and carefully cut through it to make more space for the tendon. Before closing the wound, your surgeon may flex and extend your affected finger to ensure that the tendon can move freely.

Trigger Finger Release: What to expect during recovery

After the surgery, you should be able to move your treated finger right away. If you had open surgery, your palm or thumb may feel sore once the anaesthesia wears off. Doctors may recommend over-the-counter painkillers for relief.

You will be advised on how to care for your wound and if you have stitches, you may need to return to the hospital to have them removed. Some stitches are can be dissolved and will disappear within 3 weeks. 

If you have a difficult time moving your hand, you can remove the dressings after several days. Also, you can expect to gain full movement within 2 weeks. This means you can start driving again as soon as you feel that it’s safe for you to do so. After several weeks, you can get back to playing sports, if your wound has healed and you can grip again. 

As to when you can return to work, that’ll depend on your job. If you have a desk job, you may not need any time off from work but if your job involves manual labour, you may need up to 4 weeks off. 

If you experienced stiffness in the affected finger before the surgery, your doctor will recommend you to undergo hand therapy after the surgery to loosen it. Your physiotherapist will then discuss with you the types of trigger finger surgery recovery exercises that you can do at home.

As with any surgical procedure, there are risks to getting trigger finger release surgery. This includes:

  • Infection
  • Stiffness or pain
  • Tender scar
  • Nerve damage
  • Tendon bowstringing
  • Complex regional pain syndrome

Hence, before your surgery, discuss with your surgeon about the possible complications and risks of having a trigger finger release surgery. That way, you can prepare your mind, body, and soul before the surgery occurs.

At Spire Orthopaedic Centre, everyone should be cared for and healed holistically in comfort without having to travel to different locations to seek medical and surgical help and rehabilitation support.

With a combined facility for collaboration between physicians, physiotherapists, and surgeons, you will experience a seamless service from diagnosis to treatment and rehabilitation, that’s tailored just for you at our clinic.