What is De Quervain’s syndrome?

De Quervain syndrome is a tendonitis of the first dorsal extensor compartment sheath, which is located at the wrist. It is a very common cause of wrist and thumb pain.  In this condition, the tendons that move the thumb become swollen and inflamed and have difficulty gliding through the first dorsal compartment. This constriction, in turn, leads to even more inflammation, further progressing the condition.

Who gets De Quervain’s syndrome?

De Quervain’s is a common overuse tendonitis. It can happen in anyone that performs repetitive activity. It is also common during or after pregnancy—which is why it is also sometimes called “mommy thumb.” Most often, however, the cause is unknown.

How is De Quervain’s syndrome diagnosed?

Diagnosing De Quervain’s syndrome is usually quite easy. Patients will present with pain over the first dorsal compartment at the wrist. They will also have pain with some provocative tests that are performed during the physical exam. Thumb arthritis, wrist arthritis and ganglion cysts  are common differential diagnoses to de Quervain’s, so an x-ray is generally taken to rule out these conditions.

How is De Quervain’s syndrome treated?

The vast majority of the time, a simple injection followed by a period of rest will alleviate De Quervain’s syndrome. We generally use a simple brace over a three to four-week period following the injection. If the injection is unsuccessful in alleviating symptoms, a simple surgical procedure may be required. This is done on an outpatient basis and even can be done under local anesthesia in the office.

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