Trigger Digit Release

Trigger finger is a common problem where a finger or thumb becomes stuck in a curved position. It can also happen where the finger snaps into a straight position suddenly. Although generally not painful, this can be frustrating and cause issues with everyday functions. Trigger finger can go away on its own, but for some people, the condition becomes so severe that a releasing operation must be performed. This is known as trigger digit release. 

Symptoms of Trigger Finger

Also known as stenosing tenosynovitis, trigger finger is more common in people with diabetes, arthritis, and in women. Most people who start exhibiting symptoms of trigger finger usually have a job or a hobby where they use repetitive finger movements. This condition develops over time, but the first symptom is a clicking or sticking of the finger or thumb while in use. Finger stiffness, especially in the morning, is also a common early symptom. This generally progresses to tenderness or a bump in the palm near the base of the afflicted finger. Then, the affected finger will start getting stuck either bent or straight. Over time, this can get worse or stay the same. The joint can also become infected. 

Trigger Digit Causes

The cause of trigger finger is injury and inflammation of the tendons in the finger and hand. Each tendon has something called a tendon sheath, which is a thin layer of tissue that helps the tendon to move freely. This tendon sheath can become inflamed and irritated with excessive use, age, or other issues. There are other conditions that affect tendon sheaths and create similar problems. Once a tendon sheath has become infected, it can harden, become thicker, or form nodules. This limits mobility and creates a trigger finger. Trigger digit release helps the tendon sheath to relax and helps the patient regain function.

Trigger Digit Release Procedure

There are two different ways to perform a trigger digit release. Both of these are considered minimally invasive, but a surgeon may choose to perform one or the other depending on the severity of the patient’s symptoms. One of these is percutaneous release, while the other is open release. 

Percutaneous Release of Trigger Digit 

If a person’s trigger finger is determined to not be as serious but still will not go away on its own, a doctor might prefer a percutaneous release. Percutaneous means “through the skin”, so this is not a procedure with an open incision. The patient’s hand is numbed and placed so that the doctor has access to the affected finger. The doctor then inserts a small needle into the infected tendon sheath multiple times, breaking up the parts that are bunching up or thickened. Some doctors use ultrasound imaging to help them insert the needle into the tendon sheath to avoid injuring anything around it. This procedure is usually effective and heals very quickly. 

Open Release of Trigger Digit 

Open release is used on more serious cases of trigger finger. This is done in a very similar manner, except that once the patient’s hand has been numbed, an incision is made in the palm of the hand near the affected finger. The surgeon then locates the tendon sheath that is infected and cuts it so that the finger can move freely. This can be done with one large incision or several smaller ones. The main incision is then closed with stitches and the patient can go home shortly after. This surgery has a reputation for being more effective, because the doctor has a clear view of the affected area and can easily sever the tendon sheath. 

Recovery and Long Term Effects of TDR

Once the operation has been completed, many patients do experience some stiffness and swelling. Taking anti-inflammatory pain medications can help with this. In most cases, the area is completely healed and pain-free after 2-6 weeks. Some people do experience stiffness or other problems for up to 6 months after the surgery, but this is usually minimal. Most patients heal well and gain much more mobility and function after the procedure. Contact your doctor if you are still experiencing pain or any concerns after the surgery has been completed!

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