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Medically Reviewed April 2023, by Mr. Bryan Mayou (GMC: 1414396) - founder of the Cadogan Clinic and one of the world's leading plastic surgeons
Trigger finger release is a type of surgery designed to free up, or ‘release’ a finger or thumb which has been stuck in a bent position.
Also known as trigger finger surgery, the procedure involves gently cutting through the affected tendon sheath, restoring movement.
There are two different types of surgical trigger finger treatment - open trigger finger release surgery and percutaneous trigger finger release surgery.
In open surgery, a small incision is made at the base of the affected digit before the surgeon cuts into the top of the tendon sheath in order to widen it. In percutaneous trigger finger surgery, a surgeon uses ultrasound to guide a needle to the affected tendon sheath. The needle is then used to break up the constricting tissue around the tendon.
Percutaneous trigger finger release surgery does not involve making any incisions, so there is no wound to heal and no risk of scarring. As a result, the recovery time is quicker than open surgery. However the surgery has a slightly greater risk attached to it as there are important nerves and arteries surrounding it which could potentially be damaged.
Trigger finger release is the most effective form of treatment for trigger finger.
Trigger finger is a condition that affects one or more of the flexor tendons in the hand that control finger movement. Trigger finger leaves the sufferer unable to straighten the affected finger(s) or thumb in the usual way.
Trigger finger is caused by a tendon or tendon sheath (which covers the tendon) becoming inflamed and swelling up, causing the tendon to catch in the tendon sheath. As a result, those with the condition find it difficult to move the affected digit and end up having to use their other hand to force it into position. Trigger finger can also result in an unpleasant or painful ‘clicking’ sensation in the affected finger or thumb.
Trigger finger can develop in the thumb and any finger. The condition may affect one or multiple fingers and may develop in both hands.
Trigger finger can affect your ability to carry out day-to-day tasks and some people find the condition painful. Taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help relieve any pain while steroid injections can help to reduce any swelling.
Words from our clients:
"I was extremely satisfied with the care and treatment I received at the Cadogan Clinic. My surgeon was friendly and informative and explained the procedure fully. My procedure went very well and with the excellent care of the nursing staff, I made a speedy and full recovery. Would recommend to anyone."Eva Berry
"At the beginning before the operation the nurse taking care of me made me feel so comfortable. The surgeon and anesthetist helped me feel so calm. Fantastic before and after treatment"Scarlett Elliott
"The girls on the reception at the clinic were very pleasant and professional. The nurse who took out my stitches after my surgery was just lovely and took me through step by step what she was doing and she also recommended a great cream to use to help with healing."Georgina Nolan
“I was treated with care and provided with thorough knowledge about the procedure I was undertaking. My surgeon was very methodical (a perfectionist) and I felt I received A class treatment."Courtney O'Sullivan
"Outstanding experience from the first appointment to being discharged. Very professional, friendly and a fantastic outcome."Gemma Stevenson
"Reception staff very welcoming and efficient. Both nurses who I dealt with were fantastic, and the whole team (anaesthetist, surgeon etc) were friendly but professional, and really put my mind at ease. That I was able to stay later than I perhaps needed after my surgery to fit in with my husbands schedule was greatly appreciated."Emma Davies
The flexor tendons in the palm of the hand are fixed in place by ligaments and are protected by the lubricated tendon sheath which allows them to move smoothly when the fingers are bent and straightened. If there is inflammation or swelling in the tendon or sheath, preventing the tendon from sliding freely through the sheath, this can bunch up to form a small lump, making it difficult to bend the finger or thumb concerned.
It is often difficult to find the cause of trigger finger. Tasks that require repeated grasping or the prolonged use of tools, such as scissors or screwdrivers, that press on the tendon sheath at the base of the finger or thumb may also irritate the tendons and the tendon sheath, causing them to thicken.
Trigger finger has also been associated with other conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, gout and metabolic disorders like diabetes. You are also at an increased risk of developing trigger finger if you suffer from Dupuytren's contracture, a hand condition that causes the connective tissue in the palms to thicken.
You are also more likely to develop trigger finger if you are a woman or over 40 years old.
The main symptom of trigger finger is having one or more fingers or thumbs that you cannot straighten on their own. You may also experience pain at the base of the affected thumb or finger when moved or pressed. There may be some stiffness or a clicking sensation when you try to move the affected finger or thumb. This is generally worse when you get up in the morning.
As the condition progresses, people with trigger finger find that they have pain in the hand even when it is still and the finger may stay stuck in a bent position before suddenly popping out straight. In the worst cases of trigger finger, the finger or thumb may not fully bend or straighten at all. This will affect your ability to perform day-to-day tasks.
You may also notice that a lump appears in your palm.
Trigger finger can be an upsetting condition to have, but trigger finger treatment can successfully free the affected finger or thumb, restoring movement and your ability to perform everyday tasks comfortably.
Because of the nature of the condition, the diagnosis process for trigger finger is straightforward.
The surgeon will examine the finger or thumb concerned and will ask you questions about what symptoms you have experienced and how long for. You will be asked to open and close your hand to examine the range and smoothness of movement and whether you are experiencing any pain. The surgeon will also feel your hand to check for any lumps.
Diagnostic imaging, such as an MRI or ultrasound, are not required when diagnosing trigger finger.
There are two types of trigger finger surgery.
In open trigger finger surgery, the surgeon will make a cut at the base of the affected finger or thumb before carefully cutting open the constricted area of tendon sheath.
In percutaneous trigger finger surgery, a sturdy needle is inserted into the treatment area and this is moved around in order to break up the constricted area which is preventing the tendon from moving freely. This is carried out with the use of ultrasound so the surgeon can avoid the delicate nerves surrounding the tendon sheath.
Trigger finger surgery takes around 30 minutes and is carried out under a local anaesthetic. It is carried out as a day case, meaning you will be allowed to go home the same day as your procedure.
Surgery is usually carried out on people who have a serious case of trigger finger or those who have tried other trigger finger treatments that have not worked. Corticosteroid (steroid) injections are an effective treatment for 50 to 70% of people with trigger finger. However this is not always a permanent fix compared to trigger finger surgery.
We have invited a selection of the country's very best consultants to join us at the Cadogan Clinic so that you can be sure that whatever the nature of your treatment, you will be seeing one of the top practitioners in the country.
The Patient Journey. A breakdown of what you can expect on your journey with us
We are deeply invested in ensuring that every step of your surgical journey with us is as informative and reassuring to you as it can be. This article outlines what you can expect at each stage of the journeyThe Patient Journey
Can a trigger finger heal on its own?
It is possible for trigger finger to heal on its own, without the need for treatment. But it is not possible to know if or when your trigger finger will get better. Resting the affected finger or thumb may help with healing while over-the-counter painkillers will help relieve any associated pain.
However, if left untreated, there is a risk that your trigger finger may get worse.
The only sure-fire way to get rid of a trigger finger and restore the movement in the hand is trigger finger surgery.
We have a team of the finest surgeons operating here at the Cadogan Clinic, meaning we are one of the top destinations for trigger finger surgery in the UK. Book an appointment with one of our consultants to find out how we can help with trigger finger treatment.
What will happen if a trigger finger is not treated?
Sometimes a trigger finger can heal on its own, but there are risks attached if you choose not to treat the condition.
If you do not seek trigger finger treatment then the affected finger or thumb may become permanently bent. This can cause pain and make it extremely difficult to perform certain everyday tasks. Depending on your job, this may mean you have to sign off sick or risk a loss of earnings if self-employed. Trigger finger may also impact your hobbies and social life.
Trigger finger surgery is fast and effective and is the best way to get rid of trigger finger and improve your quality of life.
How much does trigger finger release cost?
The average cost of trigger finger release, or trigger finger surgery, in the UK is £2,500. This price varies depending on the number of fingers and thumbs affected and the type of surgery carried out.
If you choose the Cadogan Clinic for your trigger finger release in London, you will get:
How long does it take to recover from trigger finger release?
You should be able to move your finger immediately after surgery. The surgeon will encourage you to open and close your hand before you leave the clinic.
The dressing will be changed and the wound checked 10-14 days after surgery when the stitches will also be removed. By the two week mark, you should have regained your full range of movement.
You should be safe to drive between three to five days after trigger finger release. You can return to playing sports at two to three weeks post-surgery.
If you do a manual job, you should expect to take between two and four weeks off work in order to make a full recovery from your trigger finger surgery. If you have a desk job or a role that involves light manual duties then you may be able to return to work straight away.
It is very important that you follow all the aftercare advice issued by your surgeon. Failure to do so may impact on your recovery and the final result.
If your finger is stiff after surgery, then you may need some physiotherapy.
Are finger splints good for trigger finger?
Some people with trigger finger choose to strap the affected finger or thumb to a plastic splint in order to reduce movement. This may help if you only have a mild trigger finger as restricting this movement can help to ease symptoms. If your trigger finger is particularly stiff in the morning, you may find that it helps to use a splint overnight.
However splinting is only a short term solution for mild trigger finger. It is ultimately not a successful trigger finger treatment compared to steroid injections or trigger finger surgery. Surgery is the only treatment guaranteed to relieve the pain and immobility that comes with trigger finger.
Founded in 2004 by world renowned plastic surgeon Mr Bryan Mayou, we now work with over 100 leading consultants and successfully treat over 20,000 patients each year. We have been winning industry awards since inception.About Us
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All of our treatments take place at our beautiful boutique premises in Chelsea. We have six consulting rooms and five operating rooms, as well as a dedicated pre and post-operative suite, and a full team of specialist nursing staff.Our Clinic
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Complications are rare although, as with all surgery, possible. Your surgeon will discuss each of these risks comprehensively at your consultation.
We believe in the delivery of excellent outcomes and results, and exceptional levels of service. Our outcomes are natural and long-lasting, and we remain the premier choice for cosmetic surgery treatments in the UK.
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