Quantifying catch-and-release: The extensor tendon force needed to overcome the catching flexors in trigger fingers

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Abstract

The extensor tendon forces required to overcome the catching flexors in trigger fingers are unknown. A biomechanical model with moment equilibrium equations and method of least squares was developed for estimating the tendon force at triggering in trigger fingers. Trigger fingers that exhibited significant catching and sudden release during finger extension were tested. A customized “pulling tester” was used to pull the finger from flexion to extension and provide synchronic measurement of the pulling force. The displacement of the tested finger was measured by a motion capture system. This preliminary study presents kinematic and kinetic data at triggering of 10 trigger fingers. The distal and proximal interphalangeal (PIP) joints presented sudden release while the metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joint started extension in the early phase of finger extension. The tendon tension of flexor digitorum profundus was greater than that of flexor digitorum superficialis (FDS) in six fingers, and less than that of FDS in three fingers. The tension of two flexor tendons was almost equal in one finger. At the PIP and MCP joints, 1.54 times the force of flexors was needed for the extensors to overcome the catching flexors in trigger fingers. This biomechanical model provides clinicians with a clearer idea of the tendon force at triggering. The quantitative results may help in the understanding of movement characteristics of trigger fingers. These findings are useful to better understand the etiology and nature of trigger finger development, and thus aid in further development of better assessments and treatments related to this.

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