JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Steroid injections in the management of trigger fingers.

OBJECTIVES: The most commonly used primary treatment for trigger fingers is corticosteroid injection in the flexor tendon sheath, followed by surgical release if unsuccessful. This study examines the surgical and nonsurgical treatment of patients with trigger fingers presenting to a large Canadian tertiary referral center. The treatment success and side-effect profile of steroid injection therapy and surgical release were examined in the context of comorbid illness, specifically, diabetes mellitus.

DESIGN: Retrospective review of all patients with trigger finger who were seen by the senior authors between January 1999 and June 2004.

RESULTS: In the study period, 118 trigger digits were treated. This study included 92 nondiabetic, 21 type 2 diabetic, and five type 1 diabetic trigger fingers. Of the 89 digits that received at least one steroid injection, 46 (52%) resolved completely and 42 (47%) were improved. Nondiabetic digits were treated successfully in 40 out of 70 digits (57%) with steroid injection therapy. Diabetic patients had a success rate of 6 of 19 (32%) with steroid injections, which is significantly lower than nondiabetics (P = 0.04). All type 1 diabetics (n = 5) required surgical treatment. Surgical treatment was successful in 71 of 72 (99%) digits. No side effects of steroid injection were noted, and short-term postoperative side effects were noted in 26 of 72 surgical patients (36%). No statistically significant differences were found in surgical complication rates in diabetics vs. nondiabetics or type 1 diabetics vs. type 2 diabetics.

CONCLUSIONS: Steroid injection therapy should be the first-line treatment of trigger fingers in nondiabetic patients. In diabetics, the success rate of steroid injection is significantly lower. Injection therapy for type 1 diabetics was ineffective in this study. Surgical release of the first annular (A1) pulley is most effective overall in diabetics and nondiabetics alike, with no higher rates of surgical complications in diabetics.

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