KidsMD Health Topics

Trigger Thumb

  • The Hand and Orthopedic Upper Extremity Program

    The Hand and Orthopedic Upper Extremity Program provides comprehensive care involving occupational and physical therapy, splinting, casting and reconstructive surgeries for infants, children and adolescents with complex congenital, neuromuscular, sports-related oncologic and traumatic upper limb conditions

    The Hand and Reconstructive Microsurgery Program

    The specialists in the Hand and Reconstructive Microsurgery Program at Children's are experts in the management of congenital and acquired hand deformities. We recognize the social elements involved in pediatric hand surgery, so an essential part of these operations has been making the child's hand as symmetrical as possible with his unaffected hand.


  • In-Depth

    How common are trigger thumbs?

    No one knows exactly how common this condition is. Researchers estimate that trigger thumbs make up about 2 percent of all hand problems in growing children.

    While often referred to as "congenital" trigger thumbs, many studies of newborns show that this problem does not appear at the time a child is born.

    In about 30 percent of children with trigger thumb, both thumbs are affected.

    What causes trigger thumbs?

    Trigger thumbs occur by chance and are not associated with other hereditary or congenital disorders.

    They’re caused when a fibrous band under which your child’s thumb tendon normally glides is too tight. This prevents an easy gliding motion and results in a swollen, inflamed tendon.

    When the tendon becomes inflamed, it’s difficult (or impossible) for your child to fully extend his thumb.

    What are the symptoms of a trigger thumb?

    Your child will have a flexed, or bent, thumb.

    • Early on, your child will be able to extend the thumb, though often this is accompanied by pain, swelling or a noticeable clicking sound.
    • In the later stages, your child’s thumb will remain in a flexed position.
    • Often a bump can felt at the base of the thumb in your child’s palm.
  • Tests

    How are trigger thumbs diagnosed?

    Your child’s doctor can diagnose this condition by conducting a thorough medical history and physical exam.

  • How are trigger thumbs treated?

    Trigger thumbs may spontaneously get better in a small percentage of children, but the chances of this decrease with increasing age.

    For this reason, surgery is recommended for trigger thumbs in children who are over age 1.

    Surgery involves loosening the fibrous band that's aggravating the thumb tendon.

    Your child will probably have to wear a bulky, soft bandage for a week.

    What is the long-term outlook for my child?

    The risk of the condition recurring following surgery is small.

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