Trigger finger is a condition that affects the hand’s tendons, causing difficulty in bending the finger or thumb. It can happen to one finger, the thumb, or multiple ones. It happens when the tendon or tendon sheath (the tunnel a tendon runs through) in the hand becomes inflamed or irritated. This causes a locking or clicking sensation in the finger, with the inability to move or bend it. It may also cause pain and discomfort, making it difficult to carry out daily activities.
Trigger finger can be caused by repetitive stress on the tendon, such as gripping or squeezing. Those with underlying medical conditions that cause inflammation in the joints, such as diabetes or arthritis, may also be more prone to developing trigger finger.
If your trigger finger becomes worse, you may develop a lump in your hand, or it may not fully bend or straighten properly. Additionally, it may get stuck in a bent position. Trigger finger release surgery is typically recommended for moderate to severe cases where the condition does not improve or resolve with other treatments such as corticosteroid injections.
How does trigger finger release work?
There are 2 types of trigger finger release surgery, these are:
Open surgery: an incision is made in the tissue above the swollen tendon to open it up so that it can move freely and smoothly without causing pain or locking. The incision is closed with sutures.
Percutaneous release: no incision is made in this procedure. An ultrasound guided needle is inserted into the area to help break up the tissue build-up, thus releasing your locked tendon, and allowing it to move freely without pain or locking.
The procedure is conducted using local anaesthesia, where your orthopaedist gives you an injection to numb your hand and prevent you from feeling any pain.Both types of trigger finger release procedures are minimally invasive, outpatient procedures, and can usually be completed in less than an hour.
Benefits of trigger finger release
Fixes trigger finger problems
Eliminates pain and swelling
Allows the affected finger to straighten
Improves flexibility and mobility
What conditions does trigger finger release treat?
Trigger finger release can be used to treat the following conditions:
Inflammation and swelling in the fingers
What results can I expect?
After surgery, you can expect to have a small scar on your finger or palm that will fade in time. You should be able to move your finger but do not overstrain it. You will be prescribed painkillers and anti-inflammatory medication to help alleviate pain and reduce swelling.
It can take approximately 6 weeks for your hand to heal completely. Most patients will be able to move the finger easily without any pain after the recovery period.If you have multiple trigger fingers, it may take longer to heal.
You may also experience the following post-surgery:
Tingling or numbness at the incision site
Soreness in your affected hand
Minor pain and discomfort which can be managed with painkillers
Results will vary from person to person, depending on the treatment area, severity of the issue, and your overall health. Your orthopaedist can give you a better idea of what to expect based on your individual needs and circumstances.
How many treatment sessions are needed?
Treatment sessions depend on how many fingers are affected by the condition. Generally, only one procedure at a time is carried out. You may need to see your doctor for follow-up appointments after the surgery, and attend physiotherapy sessions.
Your orthopaedic surgeon will be able to provide you with a bespoke treatment plan, tailored to your needs and requirements.
Dr Puah KL is our Senior Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at Artisan Sports & Orthopaedic Surgery. He used to serve the sports service of Singapore General Hospital - the highest volume trauma centre for orthopaedics in Singapore.