Trigger finger, also known as stenosing tenosynovitis, occurs when inflammation within the sheath surrounds the tendon, narrowing that space. The finger may remain permanently locked in a bent position in severe cases. 

Trigger finger is more common in people whose hobbies or work involve repetitive gripping. The condition is also likely to affect women more than men and people with diabetes. Treatment varies depending on the severity of the bend. 

Learn more about the cause of trigger finger and how to unlock trigger finger when it occurs. Usually, the condition is not a medical emergency, but ignoring the symptoms for too long could lead to a permanent bend of the affected finger. 

Trigger Finger Surgery Overview

What is Trigger Finger?

Trigger finger is a condition where one finger gets stuck in a bent position. The affected finger may straighten or bend with a snap just like a trigger pulled and released hence the name. 

Trigger finger disease (locking finger or stenosing tenosynovitis disorder), hand anatomy with highlight on painful area. Patient has palm pain and catching of finger problem. Medical symptom concept

What Causes Trigger Finger?

The cause of trigger finger is often a problem with the tendons. Tendons usually attach muscle to bone, with each tendon surrounded by a protective sheath. Trigger finger occurs when the sheath gets irritated or inflamed, interfering with the normal gliding motion of the tendons through the sheath.  

When this irritation occurs for an extended period, scarring and thickening of the tendon occur, impeding the tendon’s motion even more. Certain factors increase the risk of developing trigger finger, including:

  • Repetitive gripping: If you work a job requiring repetitive use of the hand or prolonged gripping, you are at more risk of developing the condition. 
  • Health problems: People with rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes are more prone to developing trigger finger than others. 
  • Sex: Trigger finger is more common in women
  • Other health conditions: if you have certain conditions, you may be more likely to develop trigger finger. Conditions carpal tunnel syndromeDe Quervain’s disease and Dupuytren’s contracture

What are the Symptoms of Trigger Finger?

Trigger finger symptoms progress from mild to severe without treatment. They include: 

  • Stiffness in one or multiple fingers, especially in the morning 
  • A clicking sensation or popping when you move your finger 
  • A bump or tenderness in the palm of your hand, usually at the base of the affected finger 
  • The finger gets locked in a bent position, thus making it difficult to straighten it
  • The finger may also lock in a bent position, thus suddenly popping straight 

The condition can affect any finger, including your thumb. Trigger finger is often more pronounced when straightening the finger or firmly grasping something in the morning. So, what will happen if a trigger finger is not treated? Most of the time, trigger finger is more of a nuisance than a serious medical condition. However, if you don’t know how to release a stuck trigger finger when it occurs or seek medical attention, your finger might get permanently stuck in a bent position. This will make carrying out your everyday tasks difficult. 

What Happens During the Trigger Finger Surgery Procedure?

For most mild cases, the doctor will suggest resting the finger for a while and avoiding activities that may cause the symptoms to flare up. At times, a trigger finger splint is placed to minimise movement of the joints. If the symptoms continue, your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen or a steroid injection. 

Open trigger finger surgery is the next option if the condition doesn’t improve. The surgery is done under local anaesthesia, where the finger is numbed. You often won’t require an overnight stay at the hospital and can leave as soon as the surgery is over. However, ensure you have someone to drive you home as your hand will be in dressing, and you’ll be in pain. 

So, what happens during trigger finger treatment? The surgeon makes a tiny incision in the sheath where the tendons pass. This helps widen the space around the tendons of the affected finger, making it easy for the tendon to slide easily through the sheath. The surgery helps restore the ability of the affected finger or thumb to bend and straighten without any stiffness or pain. 
The percutaneous release is a less invasive procedure used to correct trigger finger. The procedure is common when middle or ring fingers are affected. The doctor numbs your palm and then inserts a sturdy needle into the skin surrounding the tendon. They then move the needle and the finger around to help break apart the blocked area.

Trigger Finger Surgery Recovery

After the procedure, expect your finger and hand to be swollen and sore for several days. It will also be hard to move your fingers at first, although this should improve after a couple of weeks. You will also have some tingling or numbness near the incision. That should get better in a few days, although it can take several months for the sensation to disappear. The incision will be covered in stitches that your doctor will take out 1 to 2 weeks following the procedure.

Full recovery can take up to 6 weeks, after which you’ll be able to move your finger without experiencing any pain or discomfort. How soon you can return to work depends on the type of job you do. If your job doesn’t require using your hands, you can return to work 1 to 2 days after the surgery. However, if your job requires repeated finger movements, lifting things or putting pressure on your hand, you should expect to be back after 6 weeks. Your doctor will guide you on the best time to return to work based on your healing progress.

What are the Possible Complications of Trigger Finger Surgery?

Although the surgery is safe, complications can occur. They include infections, bleeding, and nerve injury. The best way to minimise your risk of complications is by choosing an expert surgeon with experience in plastic surgery and microsurgery. If complications do occur, they can include:

  • Bowstringing resulting from the surgeon cutting too much of the sheath 
  • Nerve damage 
  • Incomplete extension whereby the sheath stays tight beyond where it was released
  • Infection 
  • Tender scar
  • Pain or stiffness in the finger 

Are you considering trigger finger surgery? Book a consultation at the Harley Clinic today.