What is a trigger finger?
Trigger finger means that the finger becomes ‘locked’ in position in the palm of your hand and is difficult to straighten. This happens when the tendon in the palm of your hand thickens and gets stuck. Trigger finger release involves making a slit in the tendon sheath, which allows the finger to move smoothly again.
The operation can be done under general anaesthesia, which means you will be asleep during the procedure. The operation can also be done under local anaesthesia, which means that you will be awake, but your hand will be numb. If you are having the operation under local anaesthesia, you may be offered a sedative to help you relax. This may also make it easier for you to keep your hand still during the procedure.
This operation is routinely carried out as a day-case, with no overnight stay. Your surgeon will explain the benefits of having trigger finger release and discuss the associated risks and alternatives to the procedure.
About the operation
Once the anaesthetic has taken effect, your surgeon will make a small cut in your palm to get to the tendon and release it. The cut in the palm of the hand is then sewn up using stitches. The operation usually takes about 15 to 20 minutes.
A long-acting local anaesthetic may be injected around the operation site to keep the area pain free afterwards. This may cause the palm and fingers to feel numb for up to 10 hours.
After your operation
You will usually be able to go home once you have made a full recovery from the anaesthesia.
Stitches are usually removed about 7 to 14 days after the operation, but if you have dissolvable stitches, they will disappear on their own in seven to ten days. Afterwards, the scar will feel quite firm and tender.
Follow your surgeon’s advice about driving, returning to work, heavy lifting and sport. You should not drive until you feel you could do an emergency stop without discomfort. A full recovery can take up to a month.
What are the risks?
The operation to release trigger finger is commonly performed and generally safe.
For most people, the benefits are greater than the disadvantages. However, all surgery carries an element of risk.
After surgery, you may have some pain, swelling and bruising around the operation site. This may last for a week or two, or until the wound heals.
This is when problems occur during or after the operation. Most people are not affected. The possible complications of any surgery include an unexpected reaction to the anaesthetic, excessive bleeding, infection or developing a blood clot, usually in a vein in one of your legs (deep vein thrombosis, DVT). Complications specific to a trigger finger release include a small risk of injury to other nerves, blood vessels or tendons in the hand.
Most people have little or no pain and numbness in their finger after surgery, but for some people it can take several months for discomfort to disappear. In some cases, the symptoms of trigger finger return needing further surgery. This is more likely if you have diabetes.
The chance of complications depends on the exact type of operation you are having and other factors such as your general health. Your surgeon will explain how these risks apply to you.