Trigger finger

Trigger finger causes a finger to catch or lock in position when it is moved. It can be a nuisance, hindering everyday activities, and it can be painful. In the thumb the condition is known as trigger thumb.

Common questions

What is release of trigger finger?

A trigger finger (or thumb) is frequently a nuisance and it can be a painful condition. By the surgical treatment of a trigger finger any pain or tenderness will be removed and the locking of the finger is prevented. If it isn't treated, the finger or thumb can sometimes become permanently locked in a bent or a straightened position.

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.

What happens during a release of trigger finger?

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.

 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.

What should I expect after a release of 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.

Contact Benenden Hospital

It’s easy to make an appointment; you can ask your GP or give us a call on 01580 230661.