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Trigger finger

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(Redirected from Stenosing tenosynovitis)
Trigger finger
Other namesHistoricopous, trigger digit, trigger thumb,[1] stenosing tenosynovitis[1]
An example of trigger finger affecting the ring finger
SpecialtyHand surgery, orthopedic surgery, and plastic surgery
SymptomsCatching or locking of the involved finger, pain[2][3]
Usual onset50s to 60s years old[2]
Risk factorsGenerally idiopathic, meaning no known cause. Perhaps diabetes[3]
Diagnostic methodSymptoms and signs[2]
Differential diagnosisSagittal band rupture
TreatmentSteroid injections, surgery. The role of splint immobilization is uncertain[3]
FrequencyRelatively common[2]

Trigger finger, also known as stenosing tenosynovitis, is a disorder characterized by catching or locking of the involved finger in full or near full flexion, typically with force.[2] There may be tenderness in the palm of the hand near the last skin crease (distal palmar crease).[3] The name "trigger finger" may refer to the motion of "catching" like a trigger on a gun.[2] The ring finger and thumb are most commonly affected.[1]

The problem is generally idiopathic (no known cause). People with diabetes might be relatively prone to trigger finger.[3] The pathophysiology is enlargement of the flexor tendon and the A1 pulley of the tendon sheath.[3][2] While often referred to as a type of stenosing tenosynovitis (which implies inflammation) the pathology is mucoid degeneration.[3] Mucoid degeneration is when fibrous tissue such as tendon has less organized collagen, more abundant extra-cellular matrix, and changes in the cells (fibrocytes) to act and look more like cartilage cells (chondroid metaplasia). Diagnosis is typically based on symptoms and signs after excluding other possible causes.[2]

Trigger digits can resolve without treatment. Treatment options that are disease modifying include steroid injections and surgery.[3] Splinting immobilization of the finger may or may not be disease modifying.

Signs and symptoms[edit]

Symptoms include catching or locking of the involved finger when it is forcefully flexed.[2] There may be tenderness in the palm of the hand near the last skin crease (distal palmar crease). Often a nodule can be felt in this area.[4] There is some evidence that idiopathic trigger finger behaves differently in people with diabetes.[5]


It is important to distinguish association and causation. The vast majority of trigger digits are idiopathic, meaning there is no known cause. However, recent publications indicate that diabetes and high blood sugar levels increases the risk of developing trigger finger.[6]

Some speculate that repetitive forceful use of a digit leads to narrowing of the fibrous digital sheath in which it runs,[7] but there is little scientific data to support this theory. The relationship of trigger finger to work activities is debatable and there are arguments for[7] and against[8] a relationship to hand use with no experimental evidence supporting a relationship.


Side view of trigger finger in the right middle finger

Diagnosis is made on interview and physical examination. More than one finger may be affected at a time. It is most common in the thumb and ring finger. The triggering more often occurs while gripping an object firmly or during sleep when the palm of the subject’s hand remains closed for an extended period of time, presumably because the enlargement of the tendon is maximum when the finger is not being used. Upon waking, the affected person may have to force the triggered fingers open with their other hand. In some, this can be a daily occurrence.


Post operative photo of trigger finger release surgery in a diabetic patient. See:[9]

Depending on the number of affected digits and the clinical severity of the condition, Corticosteroid injections can cure trigger digits.[10]

Treatment consists of injection of a corticosteroid such as methylprednisolone often combined with a local anesthetic (lidocaine) at the A1 pulley in the palm. The infiltration of the affected site is straightforward using standard anatomic landmarks. There is evidence that the steroid does not need to enter the sheath.[11] The role of sonographic guidance is therefore debatable.

Injection of the tendon sheath with a corticosteroid is effective over weeks to months in more than half of people.[5] Steroid injection is not effective in people with Type 1 diabetes.[12] If triggering persists 2 months after injection, a second injection can be considered. Most specialists recommend no more than 3 injections because corticosteroids can weaken the tendon and there is a possibility of tendon rupture.

Triggering is predictably resolved by a relatively simple surgical procedure under local anesthesia. The surgeon will cut the sheath that is restricting the tendon. The patient should be awake in order to confirm adequate release. On occasion, triggering does not resolve until a slip of the FDS (flexor digitorum superficialis) tendon is resected.[10] 

One study suggests that the most cost-effective treatment is up to two corticosteroid injections followed by open release of the first annular pulley.[13] Choosing surgery immediately is an option and can be affordable if done in the office under local anesthesia.[13]


Trigger digits can be released percutaneously using a needle. This is not used for the thumb where the digital nerves are at greater risk.[14]

Postoperative outcome[edit]

In some trigger finger patients, tenderness is found in the dorsal proximal interphalangeal (PIP) joint. Dorsal PIP joint tenderness is more common in trigger fingers than previously thought. It is also associated with higher and prolonged levels of postoperative pain after A1 pulley release. Therefore, patients with pre-existing PIP tenderness should be informed about the possibility of sustaining residual minor pain for up to 3 months after surgery.[15]


  1. ^ a b c "Trigger Finger - Trigger Thumb". OrthoInfo - AAOS. March 2018. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Makkouk AH, Oetgen ME, Swigart CR, Dodds SD (June 2008). "Trigger finger: etiology, evaluation, and treatment". Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine. 1 (2): 92–96. doi:10.1007/s12178-007-9012-1. PMC 2684207. PMID 19468879.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Hubbard MJ, Hildebrand BA, Battafarano MM, Battafarano DF (June 2018). "Common Soft Tissue Musculoskeletal Pain Disorders". Primary Care. 45 (2): 289–303. doi:10.1016/j.pop.2018.02.006. PMID 29759125. S2CID 46886582.
  4. ^ Crop JA, Bunt CW (June 2011). ""Doctor, my thumb hurts"". The Journal of Family Practice. 60 (6): 329–332. PMID 21647468.
  5. ^ a b Baumgarten KM, Gerlach D, Boyer MI (December 2007). "Corticosteroid injection in diabetic patients with trigger finger. A prospective, randomized, controlled double-blinded study". The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. American Volume. 89 (12): 2604–2611. doi:10.2106/JBJS.G.00230. PMID 18056491.
  6. ^ Rydberg M, Zimmerman M, Gottsäter A, Eeg-Olofsson K, Dahlin LB (November 2022). "High HbA1c Levels Are Associated With Development of Trigger Finger in Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes: An Observational Register-Based Study From Sweden". Diabetes Care. 45 (11): 2669–2674. doi:10.2337/dc22-0829. PMID 36006612. S2CID 251809634.
  7. ^ a b Gorsche R, Wiley JP, Renger R, Brant R, Gemer TY, Sasyniuk TM (June 1998). "Prevalence and incidence of stenosing flexor tenosynovitis (trigger finger) in a meat-packing plant". Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 40 (6): 556–560. doi:10.1097/00043764-199806000-00008. PMID 9636936.
  8. ^ Kasdan ML, Leis VM, Lewis K, Kasdan AS (November 1996). "Trigger finger: not always work related". The Journal of the Kentucky Medical Association. 94 (11): 498–499. PMID 8973080.
  9. ^ Eisen J. "Trigger finger surgery. Fun". Retrieved 17 May 2013.
  10. ^ a b Gil JA, Hresko AM, Weiss AC (August 2020). "Current Concepts in the Management of Trigger Finger in Adults". J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 28 (15): e642–e650. doi:10.5435/JAAOS-D-19-00614. PMID 32732655. S2CID 220892746.
  11. ^ Taras, J S; Raphael, J S; Pan, W T; Movagharnia, F; Stereanos, D G (1998). "Corticosteroid injections for trigger digits: is intrasheath injection necessary?". The Journal of Hand Surgery. 23 (4): 717–722. doi:10.1016/S0363-5023(98)80060-9. PMID 9708388.
  12. ^ Baumgarten, K. M.; Gerlach, D.; Boyer, M. I. (2007). "Corticosteroid injection in diabetic patients with trigger finger. A prospective, randomized, controlled double-blinded study". Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. 89 (12): 2604–11. doi:10.2106/JBJS.G.00230. PMID 18056491.
  13. ^ a b Kerrigan CL, Stanwix MG (Jul–Aug 2009). "Using evidence to minimize the cost of trigger finger care". The Journal of Hand Surgery. 34 (6): 997–1005. doi:10.1016/j.jhsa.2009.02.029. PMID 19643287.
  14. ^ Pavlicný R (February 2010). "[Percutaneous release in the treatment of trigger digits]". Acta Chirurgiae Orthopaedicae et Traumatologiae Cechoslovaca. 77 (1): 46–51. doi:10.55095/achot2010/008. PMID 20214861. S2CID 26595001.
  15. ^ Monteerarat Y, Misen P, Laohaprasitiporn P, Wongsaengaroonsri P, Lektrakul N, Vathana T (January 2023). "Dorsal proximal interphalangeal joint tenderness is associated with prolonged postoperative pain after A1 pulley release for trigger fingers". BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. 24 (1): 13. doi:10.1186/s12891-023-06130-5. PMC 9824922. PMID 36611160.

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