> Table of Contents > Trigger Finger (Digital Stenosing Tenosynovitis)
Trigger Finger (Digital Stenosing Tenosynovitis)
Alan M. Ehrlich, MD
Robert A. Yood, MD
image BASICS
A clicking, snapping, or locking of a finger/thumb with extension movement (after flexion) ± associated pain
  • Adult population: 28/100,000/year
    • Rare in children
  • 4 times increased risk in diabetics (1)[B].
  • Predominant age
    • Childhood form typically involves thumb.
    • Adult form typically presents in the 5th and 6th decades of life and involves thumb/digits.
  • Predominant sex
    • Children: female = male
    • Adults: female > male (6:1)
Lifetime prevalence in the general population is 2.6%.
Pediatric Considerations
  • The thumb is more commonly involved in children.
  • Surgery is often more complicated for children with a trigger finger (as opposed to a trigger thumb).
  • Release of the A1 pulley alone is often insufficient, other procedures may be necessary.
  • Narrowing around the A1 pulley from inflammation, protein deposition, or thickening of the tendon itself. Prolonged inflammation leads to fibrocartilaginous metaplasia of the tendon sheath.
  • If the flexor tendon become nodular, the triggering phenomenon is worse because the nodule has difficulty passing under the A1 pulley.
  • Because intrinsic flexor muscles are stronger than extensors, the finger can stick in the flexed position.
  • No clear association with repetitive movements
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Mucopolysaccharide disorders
  • Amyloidosis
Most cases are idiopathic, and no known prevention exists. No clear association with repetitive movements
  • De Quervain tenosynovitis
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Dupuytren contracture
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Amyloidosis
Diagnosis is based on clinical presentation.
  • A palpable nodule may be present.
  • Snapping/locking may be present but neither is necessary for the diagnosis.
  • Tenderness to palpation is variable.
Test Interpretation
  • Thickening of the A1 pulley with fibrocartilaginous metaplasia
  • Thickening/nodule formation of flexor tendon
  • Splinting the metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joint at 10 to 15 degrees of flexion for 6 weeks with the distal joints free to move:
    • Splinting is more effective for fingers than thumbs (70% vs. 50%).
    • Splinting is less effective with severe symptoms, symptoms >6 months, or if multiple digits are involved (1)[B].
  • Injection of long-acting corticosteroid may provide symptom relief. Subsequent injections are less likely to help.
  • Surgery often successful for patients unresponsive to splinting/corticosteroid injections.
Attempt splinting/steroid injection prior to surgery. Splinting may be more effective for preventing recurrence than as initial treatment (2)[B].
First Line
  • Steroid injection of the tendon sheath/surrounding SC tissue has 57-90% success rate.
  • Injection in surrounding tissues is as efficacious as injecting into the tendon sheath (1,3)[B]. Injection into the palmar surface at the midproximal phalanx is associated with less pain than injection of tendon sheath at MCP joint (4)[B].
  • Injection using ultrasound guidance does not improve success rate compared to standard injection technique (5)[A]. Corticosteroid injection has higher success rate than splinting (2)[B].
Second Line
  • Oral NSAIDs may reduce pain and discomfort but have not been shown to alter underlying disease. NSAIDs do not reduce symptoms of snapping/locking.
  • P.1065

  • Injection with diclofenac may be an alternative to corticosteroid for patients with diabetes mellitus if increase in blood sugar is a concern (6)[A].
  • Corticosteroids are more effective than diclofenac during the first 3 weeks postinjection. Efficacy is similar to other modalities by 3 months postinjection (6)[B].
  • In one randomized trial, hyaluronic acid (HA) injections were as effective as corticosteroid injections. The optimal frequency, dosage, and molecular weight of HA injections has yet to be adequately studied.
Refer to a hand surgeon for release if the patient is not responding to splinting and/or steroid injections.
Physiotherapy is helpful, particularly in children.
  • Surgical release can be done as an open procedure or percutaneously.
  • No apparent differences in success or rates of complications between surgical approaches (6)[A].
  • Surgery has a lower rate of recurrence than corticosteroid injection (6)[A].
  • Most hand surgeons prefer open release because of concern about nerve injury.
Admission Criteria/Initial Stabilization
Day surgery for trigger finger release
Discharge Criteria
Absence of complications
  • Follow up is needed only if symptoms persist or if complications develop after surgery.
  • Splinting of the affected digit to minimize flexion/extension of the MCP joint helps symptom resolution (1)[B],(7)[C].
Prognosis is excellent with conservative treatment or surgical intervention. Recurrence following corticosteroid injection is more likely for patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus, younger patients, involvement of multiple digits, and patients with a history of other upper extremity tendinopathies (8)[B].
1. Akhtar S, Bradley MJ, Quinton DN, et al. Management and referral for trigger finger/thumb. BMJ. 2005;331(7507):30-33.
2. Salim N, Abdullah S, Sapuan J, et al. Outcome of corticosteroid injection versus physiotherapy in the treatment of mild trigger fingers. J Hand Surg Eur Vol. 2012;37(1):27-34.
3. Kazuki K, Egi T, Okada M, et al. Clinical outcome of extrasynovial steroid injection for trigger finger. Hand Surg. 2006;11(1-2):1-4.
4. Pataradool K, Buranapuntaruk T. Proximal phalanx injection for trigger finger: randomized controlled trial. Hand Surg. 2011;16(3):313-317.
5. Cecen GS, Gulabi D, Saglam F, et al. Corticosteroid injection for trigger finger: blinded or ultrasoundguided injection? Arch Orthop Trauma Surg. 2015;135(1):125-131.
6. Shakeel H, Ahmad TS. Steroid injection versus NSAID injection for trigger finger: a comparative study of early outcomes. J Hand Surg Am. 2012; 37(7):1319-1323.
7. Ryzewicz M, Wolf JM. Trigger digits: principles, management, and complications. J Hand Surg Am. 2006;31(1):135-146.
8. Rozental TD, Zurakowski D, Blazar PE. Trigger finger: prognostic indicators of recurrence following corticosteroid injection. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2008;90(8):1665-1672.
Additional Reading
  • Fleisch SB, Spindler KP, Lee DH. Corticosteroid injections in the treatment of trigger finger: a level I and II systematic review. J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2007;15(3):166-171.
  • Guler F, Kose O, Ercan EC, et al. Open versus percutaneous release for the treatment of trigger thumb. Orthopedics. 2013;36(10):e1290-e1294.
  • Huisstede BM, Hoogvliet P, Coert JH, et al. Multidisciplinary consensus guidelines for managing trigger finger: results from the European HANDGUIDE Study. Phys Ther. 2014;94(10):1421-1433.
  • Wang J, Zhao JG, Liang CC. Percutaneous release, open surgery, or corticosteroid injection, which is the best treatment method for trigger digits? Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2013;471(6):1879-1886.
  • Will R, Lubahn J. Complications of open trigger finger release. J Hand Surg Am. 2010;35(4):594-596.
  • M65.30 Trigger finger, unspecified finger
  • M65.319 Trigger thumb, unspecified thumb
  • M65.329 Trigger finger, unspecified index finger
Clinical Pearls
  • Trigger finger is caused by narrowing of the A1 flexor tendon pulley.
  • Splinting the MCP joint at 10 to 15 degrees flexion for 6 weeks is the preferred initial conservative treatment.
  • Splinting is more effective for fingers as opposed to thumbs (70% vs. 50%). Splinting is less effective with severe symptoms, longstanding symptoms (>6 months), or if multiple digits are involved.
  • Long-acting corticosteroid injections are effective for treatment of trigger finger.
  • Open and percutaneous surgical release has high success rates for patients not responsive to splinting or injections.