Trigger thumb can occur in both adults and children and is an involuntary condition in which the thumb (or a finger) clicks or locks into place, as it is bends towards the palm. The condition is caused when the tendon in the thumb becomes swollen at the mouth of the tunnel through the finger. The inflamed tendon catches in the tunnel opening and interferes or prevents movement of the joint.
In adults, triggering or locking of joints can happen in the thumb or fingers and is often due to degenerative changes in the tendons. In children however, symptoms usually become present between the ages of 1 to 4 years and are restricted to the thumb alone.
What does the operation involve?
When treating children the operation is carried out under general anaesthetic. Adults are either given an injection of local anaesthetic in the palm of the hand or regional anaesthetic under the armpit. A tourniquet may also be used around the arm to temporarily reduce blood flow the to hand.
A small incision is made in the palm of the hand in order to reach the tendon. The mouth of the tendon tunnel is then widened by slitting the tendon sheath that surrounds it. Once the operation is complete the incision is closed with stitches.
What to expect post surgery?
Specialist post-op care:
> The wound will require a dressing for 10 to 14 days after the operation.
> Light use of the hand is possible from the day of surgery.
> Movement of the digit is encouraged to aid the recovery of movement and prevent stiffness.
> May need to take an anti-inflammatory drug (ibuprophen) for the first few days to relieve pain and swelling.
> Try to resume usual activities as much as possible.
What are the risks?
Common side effects:
> Pain, tenderness swelling or bruising around the area treated.
> The scar may be tender and red for several weeks.
Uncommon but potential complications:
> Some damage to the nerves or blood vessels in the finger.
> Infection in the tendon sheath or wound.
> The finger may become swollen and stiff after the operation.