The care of the hand in the post-operative period is very important in helping to ensure a good result. Initially the aims are comfort and elevation. These are met by keeping the hand up (elevated) especially in the first few days and by use of a long acting local anaesthetic (Bupivicaine). The local anaesthtic lasts at least 12 hours and sometimes 48 hours. Patients should start taking painkillers before the pain starts . on return home and for at least 24 hours from there. This way most of our patients report little or any pain.
The bandage can be removed after 2-7 days, leaving a sticky dressing beneath. The patient or GP practice nurse can do this. If well healed at that stage then the wound can be left open (exposed). If in doubt it can be covered with a light dressing for a few more days. The patient is reviewed in clinic between 2-4 weeks following the operation. Typically dissolvable stitches are used so they should not require to be removed.
The hand can be used for normal activity after the first few days. Most patients can drive after a 2-3 days. Most patients return to work in 2-5 weeks, but this varies with occupation; heavy manual work usually takes about 4 weeks. The wound should be massaged by the patient 3 times a day with a bland soft cream for 3 months once the wound is well healed (typically after 2 weeks). This reduces the scar sensitivity which can be a nuisance. If this is marked a Physio may be organised to help reduce the scar tenderness but this is rarely required. Patients should avoid pressing heavily on the scar for 3 months following the operation as this will be quite painful. Examples of activities to avoid are using the palm to grip/twist a heavy or tight object or use the palm to help get out of a chair.
What are the results of the operation?
At least 85-90% of patients say they have a good result following this operation, with relief of the pain and triggering. If there is already severe stiffness of the finger, then this may not improve. Recurrent symptoms do occur but in our experience in only a 2-3% mainly in patient with more severe symptoms and particularly patients with Diabetes.
The benefits from the first shot only lasted 2 weeks. The second and third set of injections lasted about 90 days. In November, I was ready to have surgery. My EMG and nerve conduction tests proved that the nerves were "sleeping" before I was. After another MRI, the neurosurgeon said I was a candidate for surgery but I was not able to get the endoscopic type surgery that is less invasive. I would have an incision about 6-8" long. Along with removing the herniation, they would have to increase the size of the hole where the nerve roots were going through.