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Dupuytren’s disease

palmar fibromatosis

This is a familial disease. There are both genetic and environmental factors. The condition is more common in diabetics, epileptics and chronic alcoholics.


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What may I notice or complain of? 

You may complain of thickening or pits or lumps in the palm. These may be painful. Or may notice that the lumps appear to bending the finger.

Daily activities may become affected.

You or your friends may complain that you have an awkward or ‘funny’ hand shake because of the flexed or bent finger 

Your finger may get into the eyes or noses when bathing or having a shower

You may find yourself dropping objects such as coins.

And even putting your hand into pockets and restricted spaces may be awkward because of the bent finger.

Sports such as golf may be affected


You may find that it is not possible to place the palm of your hand flat on a table. When this happens, it implies a flexion  contracture or ‘tightness and bend’ of the joints in the finger. This suggests urgent treatment as the flexion contracture of the middle joint (proximal interphalangeal joint)is difficult to correct especially when prolonged. It is best to treat before the patient develops this.


Some patients may also notice lumps or swellings on the soles of their feet

Others may notice an abnormal curvature of the penis (chordee) on erection.


How is it treated?


The main stay of treatment is surgery and this is to control it rather than cure the condition. The extent of the surgery is discussed at the consultation. It will usually involve the division (fasciotomy) or removal (fasciectomy) of the diseased tissue and closure with zig zag incisions (Z plasty) with or without skin grafts.



The surgery is usually performed using regional anaesthesia (brachial block). Local anesthetic is injected into the armpit and this makes the whole arm numb and surgery is performed while patient is awake. It can also be performed under general anaesthesia. Very minor cases can even be done with a simple injection in the wrist to make only the hand numb. This is discussed at the consultation.


What to expect post operatively


Hand therapy is absolutely essential and this is usually for a period of four to six weeks after surgery. The therapists also provide patients with splints with advice on how to use them.


Stiffness may occur and would usually respond to sustained hand therapy (physiotherapy).


Scars may be swollen and firm for a few months. Massaging the scars with moistuirising cream will help soften them.


What are some of the problems that may arise?

As with any surgery there are risks.

Infection can occur as with any surgery and is usually treated with antibiotics.

Collection of blood under the skin (haematoma) can occur especially in patients on aspirin or warfarin. It can usually be drained without much difficulty.

Minor wound breakdown is not unusual. Simple dressings will suffice.

Partial or total loss of the skin grafts or the flaps (Z plasty) may occur especially in smokers


Scars especially from skin grafts may become hypertrophic or lumpy. Massage with cream or silicone gel treatment may help. There are also scar treatments performed by the hand therapist. 


There may be a tendency of the finger to bend into flexion due to the contractile forces of the scars. This is made worse if there is a lot of swelling and patient is not compliant with hand therapy. So it is important for patients to wear their splints especially at night.


There may be some areas of altered sensation or numbness on the fingers consistent with neuropraxia or bruising of the nerve. This usually recovers in a few days but may be prolonged. This will persist to a variable extent when there is a severe damage or division of one of the nerves in the finger, This is more likely in patients with repeated operations


Very few patients may react abnormally to surgery and develop a condition called complex regional pain syndrome which can cause pain and stiffness of the fingers. The aim is to detect the early signs and treat it before it becomes a major problem.