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Dupuytren's (say "duh-pwee-TRAHNZ")
disease can change how your hand looks and may make it hard or impossible to
use one or more of your fingers.
Dupuytren's disease causes tissue under
the skin of the palm of your hand to thicken and shorten. This can pull and
bend the fingers in toward the palm. You may not be able to straighten them.
The disease gets
worse slowly but rarely causes pain. You can treat it, but there is no cure. It
may only involve the palm and never affect your fingers. And you may never need
Dupuytren's disease occurs most often in people ages 50
and older. It often affects both hands and can sometimes affect the soles of
Dupuytren's disease is also called Viking's disease.
The cause of Dupuytren's disease is not known. The tendency to get it is probably inherited,
because the disease tends to happen in families. The thickening of the tissue
may be related to alcoholism, smoking, or
You may first see or feel a small lump in the
palm of your hand, usually near where your ring finger and small finger
As Dupuytren's disease gets worse, a fibrous cord may
develop in the tissue of the palm. The cord may extend to one or more fingers,
usually the ring or small finger. The cord may pull your finger toward your
palm. This is called Dupuytren's contracture.
At some point you
may not be able to fully straighten your fingers or flatten your hand on a table. You
may find it hard or impossible to do things like put on gloves, wash your
hands, or pick up things.
The disease usually does not cause pain.
If you do have pain, it’s most likely when you first get the disease.
Your doctor will look for skin changes on your palm and feel for any
knots or a cord. He or she will ask you to move your hand, wrist, and fingers.
Your doctor will ask you questions about your family and your symptoms. Your
doctor also will ask you about smoking and alcohol use.
The goal of treatment for
Dupuytren's disease is to keep your hand working as best as it can.
Learning about Dupuytren's disease:
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The cause of
Dupuytren's disease is unknown. Heredity is a factor: Dupuytren's disease tends to occur most often in people of
northern European descent and among close family members. The thickening of the
tissue between the skin and tendons, called the palmar fascia, may be related
to one or more things, such as:
Dupuytren's disease usually does not cause pain. When pain does occur, it often is
early in the disease or may happen if inflammation develops.
The first noticeable symptoms of Dupuytren's disease may
As the disease progresses, a fibrous, ropey cord may
gradually develop in the palmar fascia and connect your palm to one or more
fingers, usually the ring or small finger. The cord pulls your finger toward
the palm, which is called
Dupuytren's contracture. Eventually you will not be
able to flatten your palm on an even surface, such as a table. When it is
severe, Dupuytren's contracture can make certain everyday activities—such as
picking up items, putting on gloves, or washing your hands—difficult or
Other conditions that may cause
symptoms similar to those caused by Dupuytren's disease include rheumatoid
arthritis and work-related injuries.
Dupuytren's disease is often not noticed until it becomes severe. The tissue between
your skin and tendons, known as the palmar fascia, becomes abnormally thick and
fibrous. It is not yet clear what causes this thickening.
are three general phases of the disease:
The disease usually progresses slowly. It most often occurs
after age 50. Many people have a mild form that does not cause significant
problems. But a rare form called Dupuytren's diathesis occurs at an early age
and progresses rapidly.
Dupuytren's disease often develops in
both hands of people with the condition, and it most commonly affects the ring
and small fingers.
You are at an increased risk
Dupuytren's disease if you:
Dupuytren's disease seems to occur more in people who have
certain diseases or disorders, such as
alcoholism. It may also occur more often in people who have epilepsy or are being treated with anticonvulsant medicines.1
Call a doctor if you
Watchful waiting is a period of time during
which you and your doctor observe your symptoms or condition
without using medical treatment. This period may vary from a few weeks to
months or years.
Dupuytren's disease usually is a slowly progressing
The following health professionals can
diagnose Dupuytren's disease:
A hand surgeon, orthopedic surgeon, or
plastic surgeon can also diagnose and treat
Dupuytren's disease. These doctors are most often seen for severe disease, when
you cannot use your hand for everyday activities.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
Dupuytren's disease develops slowly and may be hard to diagnose in its early
stages. Most people do not see a doctor until the disease has
progressed. A medical history and physical exam usually provide enough
information for your doctor to determine whether you have
Questions about your medical history for
Dupuytren's disease will usually include:
A physical exam for Dupuytren's disease will usually
The goal of treatment for
Dupuytren's disease is to keep or restore hand
function. Dupuytren's disease often is a progressive disease, and recurrence is
Dupuytren's disease often develops slowly. If the tissue (palmar fascia) between your skin and
tendons does not thicken to the point that your fingers are
bent and cannot be straightened (contracture),
you may only need to have your palms checked regularly.
Stretching exercises and splints have been tried to control the early stages of Dupuytren's, but they have not been shown to slow the progress of the disease.
Dupuytren's disease depends on how bad the
disease is. You may notice the characteristic nodules in your palms years before
your condition interferes with daily activities, or you may never have a
reduction in your range of motion.
Collagenase (such as Xiaflex) injected into the tight cord can help reduce the contracture and improve the range of motion.2
Dupuytren's disease, the tissue (palmar fascia) between your skin and
tendons thickens to the point that your fingers are bent and
cannot be straightened (contracture). If you lose the ability
to wear gloves or hold objects, or if your hands become painful, a procedure may be
done to relieve the contracture. Surgery is most common, but some doctors are now doing needle aponeurotomy.
In needle aponeurotomy (also called percutaneous needle fasciotomy), a local anesthetic is injected into the palm. A needle is used to put small holes in the tight cords. The fingers are then extended to separate the cords. A splint is used to keep the finger straight as it heals.
Surgery can restore mobility to your hands, but Dupuytren's disease recurs often and
reoperation may be needed to keep hand function. After surgery, a sustained
program—including using splints, stretching, and doing scar tissue massage and
hand exercises—may help you regain mobility and prevent
complications or recurrences of the disease.3
Dupuytren's disease, an abnormal thickening of tissues in the palm, cannot be
prevented. The tendency to get it is probably inherited (passed from parents to
Home treatment for Dupuytren's disease focuses on keeping
as much hand mobility as possible. Stretching exercises and splints have been tried to control the early stages of the disease, but there is not much evidence that they help keep your fingers flexible or slow the disease process. Most people still try massage and stretching exercises. Even though the disease continues to progress, massage and stretching are simple to do, and they may help your hand stay as flexible as possible. You can also try to avoid curling your hand tightly. For example, you can use utensils and tools that have larger hand grips.
If a procedure such as surgery or needle aponeurotomy is needed, home
rehabilitation after the procedure may help prevent
complications and recurrences of the disease. Try elevating the hand and arm to prevent swelling, wearing a splint as your doctor recommends to
prevent recurrence of
contracture, and exercising to keep or regain hand
After surgery, you can
help your scar heal successfully, as guided by your doctor. Scar
management may include therapeutic hand massages by a rehabilitation
specialist; massaging your hand at home, usually 2 or 3 times a day, following
your hand therapist's instructions; and using a splint that keeps pressure
against your palm and fingers.
Medicines that you take by mouth are typically not used as part
of treatment for
Dupuytren's disease. But there is an injected medicine called collagenase (such as Xiaflex) that may help.
Surgery is a treatment option for severe
Dupuytren's disease. The goal of surgery is to restore
the use of your fingers and hand. In most cases, surgery removes the diseased
soft-tissue bands that connect your finger joints to the palm, and it may involve
graft. Total hand function may not be completely
restored by surgery. Even with successful surgery, thickened palm tissue may
develop again in the same place or in a new area of the hands. Reoperation is
often needed to keep hand function.
You may improve the
outcome if you do postsurgical rehabilitation with finger exercises and
splints, as directed by your health professional.
Depending on your condition, your surgeon will choose one
of the following surgical procedures:
In rare cases, the middle joint of the finger is fused
(permanently joined) to keep it from bending in.
When you are deciding about
surgery, think about:
aponeurotomy is a form of fasciotomy that is done as an outpatient procedure
local anesthesia. This procedure
may be good for people who cannot have surgery, or as a way to delay surgery.
But it only partially corrects pulling or contracture between the fingers and
the palm. Also, there is chance of damaging nerves of the adjacent fingers. And
there is a high chance the contracture will come back.
Rehabilitation (treatment by a
physical therapist or
occupational therapist) is a necessary step in
recovery after surgery on the hand. The goals of rehabilitation are to prevent
the buildup of fluid (edema), to manage scarring, and to get
back and keep your range of motion. It may include wrapping, splinting,
massage, stretching, and exercise. Your therapist may also recommend using
bigger grips or handles on equipment so you don't have to bend your fingers as
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS)
provides information and education to raise the public's awareness of
musculoskeletal conditions, with an emphasis on preventive measures. The AAOS
website contains information on orthopedic conditions and treatments, injury
prevention, and wellness and exercise.
ASSH is a professional organization of hand surgeons
that provides education to the public about hand problems, such as Dupuytren's
disease, carpal tunnel syndrome, and tennis elbow. ASSH also provides education
about surgery, preventive tips to keep your hands safe, and an online tool to
find a hand surgeon.
Townley WA, et al. (2006) Dupuytren's contracture unfolded. BMJ, 332(7538): 397–400.
Hurst LC, et al. (2009). Injectable collagenase clostridium histolyticum for Dupuytren's contracture. New England Journal of Medicine, 361(10): 968–979.
Hertling D, Kessler RM (2006). Dupuytren's contracture section of Wrist and hand complex. In D Hertling, RM Kessler, Management of Common Musculoskeletal Disorders: Physical Therapy Principles and Methods, 4th ed., pp. 421–422. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
March 22, 2012
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Herbert von Schroeder, MD, MSc, FRCSC - Hand and Microvascular Surgery
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