A Story of Pediatric Trigger Thumb


Back in January, I asked my daughter a question and she gave me a thumbs up in reply. It was a cute little thumbs up, but upon closer look, I realized it wasn’t exactly a straight thumb. However, I thought it was adorable and moved on.

A month or so later we had the same encounter. This time though, I looked a lot closer and realized she, in fact, could not straighten her thumb. She also showed me how it “pops” when she pushes it a certain way. 

That did not seem normal…

We made an appointment with our pediatrician and confirmed what google told us; she had pediatric trigger thumb. We were referred to a pediatric orthopedic surgeon and sent on our way.

Pediatric trigger thumb is a condition in which the thumb is locked in a bent position. This happens when a nodule is formed at the base of the thumb that won’t slide through the tunnel of the tendon when one tries to straighten the thumb. It’s not necessarily painful, but can become that way, and severely restricts movement. Depending on progression, the only solution is surgery. The condition is often present in infants but may resolve. It’s also often present but not noticeable until kids are older.

Before surgery

After visiting the orthopedic surgeon, we realized surgery was inevitable for our daughter. It was an outpatient procedure, but she’d still be under anesthesia. While we didn’t love this idea, we knew it needed to be done in order for her to regain mobility in her thumb.

Our daughter was about to start kindergarten and was right-handed, which was the stuck thumb. We didn’t want to hinder her dexterity. We also learned that her left hand is showing mild symptoms.

We could wait it out and see if it progressed like the right hand or opt for surgery on both at the same time. The thought of two casts was a bit overwhelming, so we decided to stick with just the one that was severely stuck.

The irregular thumb didn’t seem to bother our daughter at the time. However, during the weeks in which we waited for the appointment and eventually for surgery, it seemed to get worse and started to get stiff. We realized we made the correct decision and surgery was the best option.

We planned the surgery strategically between a beach trip and another family trip. We didn’t want to be on vacation and not be able to swim or play at the beach.

The day of surgery was full of lots of comfort and snacks – donuts and cookies are the top surgery recovery snacks – but she was a trooper and went through it all fairly well. Our daughter didn’t love having a cast in the summer, but luckily it was only for two weeks. Once the cast was removed, we had some stitches to monitor. Other than that it, was fairly simple and her thumb is amazingly straight now. We like to give each other a thumbs up now and admire the difference!

After surgery

Has your child experienced pediatric trigger thumb? What was your experience like?

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Lisa is a transplant from the Midwest. She was born and raised in Kansas (yes, she has seen a tornado) and spent a few years in Ohio before moving to South Carolina in 2014. She holds a degree in Biology and works as a research assistant at the USC School of Medicine. Her career in science spans 11 years and she can't imagine a job anywhere else. She has also been married to her college sweetheart for 11 years. He is a professor at USC, so they are Gamecock fans by default. They are proud parents to a spunky 2.5 year old girl who keeps them on their toes. As a family, they enjoy being outside in the wonderful southern sun, gardening, playing tennis, and going to the beach. They also are parents to 2 fur babies who still aren't sure about their little sister.


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