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Surgery for De Quervains Disease (“blackberry thumb”)

In this page you will find information about surgery for De Quervain’s disease.  For further information, contact your GP or healthcare professional.

A brief guide to De Quervain’s disease

De Quervain’s disease, often referred to as ‘washerwoman’ strain or blackberry/gamer thumb, affects your wrist and thumb causing pain and a swelling at the base of your thumb in most cases.

The reason is the thickening of the roof of the tunnel or sheath through which the thumb’s tendons, located at the base of the thumb, pass.  With restricted room the tendons have difficulty functioning correctly and you feel pain as a result.  This restriction can also cause stiffness and sometimes a locking sensation.


Figure 1 
De Quervain's disease
Copyright © 2014 EIDO Healthcare Limited

How you can benefit from this surgery

Surgery can relieve the pain.

Are there alternatives to surgery?

For mild symptoms, not using your thumb and wrist for short periods or using a splint to restrict movement can relieve pain.  Physiotherapy can also help as can anti-inflammatory medication.

What does surgery for De Quervain’s disease involve?

This is a simple procedure usually done under local anaesthetic.  A small incision at the base of the thumb allows your surgeon access to the tunnel to clear the fibrous roof.  The tendons can then move freely through the sheath.

The operation takes around 30 minutes on average.

What complications could you experience?

General complications of any surgery include:

●       Pain

●       Scarring

●       Bleeding

●       Infection of the wound

 

Specific complications of this operation include:

●       Lack of feeling at the back of your thumb

●       Scar tenderness

●       Thumb tendons moving out of place

●       Severe pain, stiffness and loss of use of the hand known as complex regional pain syndrome

How long will you take to recover?

No need for an overnight stay

Hand needs to be raised and bandaged for a few days

Gentle exercise of fingers, elbow and shoulder to maintain flexibility and avoid stiffness

A pattern of regular exercise ensures a prompt return to normal activities

Always consult your doctor or medical team before embarking on exercise

Symptoms should get better rapidly

To summarise

Pain from movement of your wrist and thumb are the main symptoms of De Quervain’s disease often accompanied by a thumb base swelling.  If steroid injections do not work then surgery will relieve the pain.

References: 

EIDO Healthcare Limited - The operation and treatment information on this website is produced using information from EIDO Healthcare Ltd and is licensed by Aspen Healthcare.

The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

 

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