Procedures for a Wrist Tendon Release

Written by sally slowinski
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Procedures for a Wrist Tendon Release
Surgery is usually performed for tendon release after conservative treatment has failed. (A hand image by Gryte from

The wrist has multiple tendons enclosed in sheaths that run under tight bands and in various compartments. The tendons can swell and become inflamed with daily use. Swelling causes decreased room for the tendons to glide within their sheaths and compartments. Surgeons perform a wrist tendon release to provide more room for the inflamed tendons to glide. The most common type of wrist tendon release is to treat De Quervain's tendinitis. Other wrist tendinitis injuries can occur in the wrist extensors, extensor pollicis longus and extensor digiti minimi, but these are far less common, according to Sports Injury Bulletin.

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De Quervain's release is when the sheaths in the first compartment of the wrist are opened surgically. The first compartment includes the abductor pollicis longus and extensor pollicis brevis tendons, according to Wheeless Online. These tendons run along the outer side of the thumb and wrist and can become inflamed by repetitive hand or wrist movement.

The wrist extensor tendons run along the back of the hand and wrist and can also become inflamed with repetitive movement.


The primary symptom of De Quervain's tendinitis is pain at the thumb side of the wrist that is worse when grasping an object or twisting the wrist, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Swelling or numbness over the back of the thumb and index finger may also occur.

The primary symptom of wrist extensor tendinitis is pain at the back of the hand and wrist that is worse when the wrist extends.


Surgery for De Quervain's syndrome involves making a small incision at the base of the thumb over the outer side of the wrist to gain access to the first compartment of the wrist. The tendon sheath enclosing the two tendons is opened. The tendon slips within the compartment are cut to allow the tendons to glide easier. The incision is closed with sutures. A brace is usually worn for two weeks to immobilise the wrist.

Surgery for wrist extensor tendinitis involves an incision at the back of the wrist to open the tendon sheaths for the extensor tendons.

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