By Scott A. Putney, MD
Trigger finger is a condition that limits the movement in your fingers or thumb. It’s caused by inflammation in the pulley of the tendon responsible for guiding the tendons that bend your fingers. If the pulley is too tight, it will cause the finger to curl into a bent position and make it painful and difficult to straighten.
Before considering surgery, there are other measures that can aid in thumb tendon repair. Just one steroid injection will typically provide relief for 50 to 80 percent of those affected. Some patients go on to try two or three injections, but any more than that isn’t likely to improve the condition. If steroid injections don’t provide enough relief, or if a more permanent relief is needed, then surgery is the next alternative.
Trigger Finger Surgery Prep
Trigger finger surgery is an outpatient procedure. The whole operation takes about two hours and requires that you avoid food the day of surgery. The doctor uses local anesthesia to numb the affected area and a mild IV sedative to help you relax and remain comfortable during surgery.
The Trigger Finger Surgical Procedure
The goal of surgery is to give the tendon more room to slide through the opening of the tunnel. An incision about one-centimeter-wide is made in line with the finger in order to cut the tendon sheath and release the pulley, where we see an immediate improvement. Then we check the tendon to make sure it’s not being hung up, and that there is no abnormal bleeding.
Are There Risks or Complications?
Surgery won’t further limit the movement of your finger, and it’s likely that it will correct the tendon entrapment and restore full movement. With any surgery, there is always a possibility of wound complications, but fortunately that is rare in this particular surgery. It’s possible that patients will experience incomplete relief, but that’s less common if the finger is moved and tested during surgery, which is all part of our practice.
It’s important to continue moving the fingers after surgery so scar tissue doesn’t build up. In most cases, you will be back to work within 48 hours and able to perform more strenuous manual tasks within two weeks. We recommend that you keep a soft bandage on the finger for 4-5 days in order to keep the wound dry and sanitary. You should expect to have a full range of motion and to experience relief immediately after surgery.
Other Factors to Consider
While this surgery is available to anyone experiencing trigger finger pain, patients with rheumatoid arthritis have a different course of treatment. In those cases, the overgrown lining of the tendon needs to be stripped. Patients with diabetes are more likely to get trigger finger and more likely to need to have it operated on.
Trigger finger surgery is a fast and relatively simple procedure that can help patients suffering from pain and limited movement.
Call us today for a consultation with an orthopedic surgeon to learn more about whether trigger finger surgery is right for you.