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De Quervain's Tendon Release: Before Your Surgery

What is de Quervain's tendon release?

De Quervain's tendon release is surgery to decrease pressure on a tendon that runs along the side of the wrist near the thumb. Tendons are flexible, rope-like fibres that connect muscle to bone. In de Quervain's (say "duh-kair-VAZ") tendinitis, the tendon becomes swollen. This causes the tendon to rub painfully against the tissue that covers it.

This surgery will probably be done while you are awake. The doctor will give you a shot (injection) to numb your hand and prevent pain. You also may get medicine to help you relax.

The doctor will make a cut (incision) in the skin on the side of your wrist near the base of your thumb. The doctor will make a cut to open the tight band over the swollen part of the tendon. This will allow the tendon to move freely without pain. The doctor will close the skin incision with stitches. You will have a scar on the side of your wrist that will fade with time.

You will go home on the same day as the surgery. How soon you can return to work depends on your job. If you can do your job without using your hand, you may be able to go back to work in a few days. But if your job requires you to do repeated hand or wrist movements, put pressure on your hand, or lift things, you will need more time. Ask your doctor when you can go back to work.

How do you prepare for surgery?

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • You may need to shower or bathe with a special soap the night before and the morning of your surgery. The soap contains chlorhexidine. It reduces the amount of bacteria on your skin that could cause an infection after surgery.
  • Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • If you take a medicine that prevents blood clots, your doctor may tell you to stop taking it before your surgery. Or your doctor may tell you to keep taking it. (These medicines include aspirin and other blood thinners.) Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your surgery. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.
  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance care plan. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It's a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking, or your surgery may be cancelled. If your doctor has instructed you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, please do so using only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do NOT shave the surgical site yourself.
  • Remove all jewellery, piercings, and contact lenses.
  • Leave your valuables at home.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • Before surgery you will be asked to repeat your full name, what surgery you are having, and what part of your body is being operated on. The area for surgery may be marked.
  • A small tube (IV) will be placed in a vein, to give you fluids and medicine to help you relax. Because of the combination of medicines given to keep you comfortable, you may not remember much about the operating room.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your doctor. You will get medicine to numb the surgery area.
  • The surgery usually takes about 30 minutes.
  • As you wake up in the recovery room, the nurse will check to be sure you are stable and comfortable. It is important for you to tell your doctor and nurse how you feel and ask questions about any concerns you may have.
  • After surgery, you will have a thick bandage on your hand and wrist. You may not be able to bend your wrist.
  • You may have a splint on your hand.
  • You may have a tube coming out of your skin near the incision to drain fluids. Your doctor will remove the tube a day or two after surgery.
  • You will probably go home after an hour in the recovery room.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your surgery.
  • You become ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the surgery.

Where can you learn more?

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