Surgical Information

Surgery for de Quervain's Syndrome

What is the surgical procedure for de Quervain's syndrome?

De Quervain's syndrome is a painful inflammation of tendons in the thumb that extend to the wrist. As the disease progresses, hand and thumb motions – especially forceful grasping and twisting – can cause pain.

Surgery for de Quervain's syndrome is an outpatient procedure. The orthopaedic surgeon opens the thumb compartment to release the pressure, make room for the irritated tendons, and relieve the pain caused by irritation and swelling.

Anatomy

There are six compartments on the back of the wrist. The first and third compartments house tendons that control the thumb. A thin soft-tissue layer, called synovium, allows the tendons to slide easily through this fibrous compartment. Swelling of the tendons or thickening of the compartment results in increased friction and pain.

When is surgery recommended?

If you have hand and thumb pain that limits your daily activities, and all non-surgical treatments – including an immobilizing splint, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroid injections or physical therapy – have failed to alleviate your symptoms, surgery may be recommended. Surgery is typically permanently curative.

The choice of treatment depends on the severity of your symptoms. It is important that you are carefully screened by an orthopaedic surgeon to determine the most appropriate option.

What is the recovery time?

Recovery times vary, depending on your age, general health and how long symptoms have been present. Generally, recovery is just a few weeks.

Following surgery, a physical or occupational therapist can teach you exercises to strengthen your thumb and wrist. The therapist can also help you adjust your daily routine to relieve stress on your wrists and prevent future problems.

Most patients resume normal use of the hand once comfort and strength have returned. However, in people whose disease has developed gradually, de Quervain's syndrome is sometimes more resistant to treatment. For these patients, it may take longer to find relief.

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