Surgery to treat a trigger finger may be recommended if less invasive treatments such as anti-inflammatory drugs, splinting or cortisone injections are not successful. The surgeon will also take into account the amount of pain you’re in, how much it is affecting your life and whether you have other medical problems, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Surgery for trigger finger is usually very effective as a permanent treatment for the condition, and it’s rare that the problem returns to the treated finger or thumb.
Surgery involves cutting through the affected area of tendon sheath to enable the tendon to move freely. There are two common types of surgery for the release of trigger finger:
- open trigger finger release surgery
- percutaneous trigger finger release surgery
However, if you have rheumatoid arthritis, a tenosynovectomy may be suggested instead; this involves removing some of the tendon sheath to allow the tendon to move again.
The procedure takes around 20 minutes and is usually carried out as day surgery so you’ll be able to go home on the same day, but you may not be able to drive yourself. You’ll be given a local anaesthetic, so you'll be awake but you won’t be able to feel any pain in your hand.
Open trigger finger release surgery involves making a small incision in the palm of your hand and carefully cutting through the tendon sheath to widen it. The wound is closed with stitches and lightly bandaged.
Percutaneous (or ‘through the skin’) trigger finger release surgery involves inserting a needle into the base of the affected finger and using it to slice through the ligament to get to the tendon. As this surgery doesn't involve an incision, there is no wound or scar. However, percutaneous surgery may be less effective at resolving trigger finger. Also, because there are important nerves and arteries close to the tendon sheath which could easily be damaged, open surgery is usually the preferred method for treating trigger finger.
You may have some pain or discomfort after the operation which we’ll help you manage with painkillers. You may need to take some time off work.
We’ll tell you how to care for your wound and, if you’ve had non-dissolvable stitches, we’ll make an appointment for you to have them removed. You may be recommended some hand therapy to help you recover full movement in your finger. This may involve physiotherapy or occupational therapy.
As with any surgical procedure there is some risk of infection of the wound, or bleeding after the operation. Because the finger nerves lie next to the tendon sheath, there is a small chance of nerve damage. The scar may be tender for several weeks.
A Cortisone injection around the tendon sheath often proves beneficial. In many cases, however, the relief may only be temporary.