Trigger finger happens when there is a problem with the tendons or the sheaths which cover them, due to swelling or inflammation. The causes of trigger finger are not known, but it is more common in women, people over 40 and those with particular medical conditions (such as Dupuytren’s contraction, diabetes and arthritis).
Where there is swelling or inflammation, the tendon may snag within its protective sheath. This can result in:
The thumb, little finger and ring finger are the digits most commonly affected. Trigger finger can affect more than one digit and can occur in both hands. It is more common in the right hand, but this is probably because most people are right-handed.
For a lot of people trigger finger gets better on its own. However, if episodes are regular or have resulted in the permanent bending of a finger or thumb which gets in the way of everyday life, a check-up by a GP is recommended and he or she may advise a range of treatment depending on the severity of the condition.
There are levels of treatment depending on the severity of the condition, and these include:
Surgery releases the sheath around the tendon to allow it to move again. There are two types of surgery:
If you have rheumatoid arthritis these procedures may not be right for you, in which case your surgeon will use another technique which removes part of the tendon sheath to allow the tendon to move again.
The operation takes about 20 minutes.
Trigger finger release surgery is a day case procedure carried out under local anaesthetic, so there is no need for a stay in hospital. The anaesthetic will leave your hand numb and you may be bandaged, so you should arrange for transport to take you home – you will not be able to drive.
You should be able to move the treated finger or thumb straight away. Dressings can come off after a few days and within a couple of weeks you should have full movement.
You may be able to write and use a keyboard immediately and after three to five days, when you feel safe to do so, you can resume driving.
Once your wound has healed and you have built up your grip, you can play sports – this usually takes about two to three weeks.
You may not need to take any time off work if you have a desk job or one with very light manual duties, but if your job involves manual labour you may need to plan for up to four weeks off.
Recovery periods may be longer if you have had more than one finger or thumb treated. You will be given instructions when you leave us about how to clean and care for your wound. You may require physiotherapy or occupational therapy if your condition was severe before the operation.
Tigger finger release is a safe operation and complications are rare but may include:
A pre-operative assessment is our opportunity to ensure that the procedure for which you have been referred is right for you. We’ll explain your treatment to you and make sure that you are well enough to go ahead with it. It is also your opportunity to meet the team who will care for you and to ask any questions.
Where trigger finger release is not available on the NHS, or where the number of NHS procedures available has been reduced and has resulted in a longer waiting time, you can choose to pay for your treatment yourself via our self pay option. You may also want to explore privately funding your treatment for other reasons which are personal to your circumstances.
Self pay is available if you find you are not eligible for NHS-funded care and do not have private medical insurance.
You will need an open referral letter from your GP (we can help you with this). Because we don’t include all of the costly extras you may associate with private hospital treatment, paying for yourself could cost you considerably less than you might imagine too. There are also financing options available, to help you spread the cost.
We continue to support NHS England during the Coronavirus crisis by providing the additional capacity it needs to treat non COVID-19 patients, but are now planning a gradual return to treating our own elective patients.