Understanding Infectious Tenosynovitis of the Finger, Hand, or Wrist

Tendons are tissues that connect muscles to bone. Infectious tenosynovitis is an infection of a tendon and its protective sheath. This infection is most common in the finger, hand, or wrist. It can be quite serious. Quick treatment can help prevent permanent damage to tissues.

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What causes infectious tenosynovitis of the finger, hand, or wrist?

The most common cause is an injury that lets germs inside the tendon sheath. These injuries include animal bites, human bites, and puncture wounds. Abuse of IV (intravenous) drugs can also be a cause.

Symptoms of infectious tenosynovitis of the finger, hand, or wrist

Symptoms include:

  • Swelling and redness

  • Pain

  • Slight bending of the finger at rest

  • Trouble using the hand or finger

  • Fever

  • Chills

Treatment for infectious tenosynovitis of the finger, hand, or wrist

Infectious tenosynovitis should be treated as soon as possible. Treatment may include:

  • Surgery to drain the infection. The surgeon cleans the inside of the tendon sheath to wash away pus and germs. They may cut away damaged or dead tissue to allow remaining tissue to heal.

  • Antibiotics to fight infection. These are usually given by IV line.

Possible complications of infectious tenosynovitis of the finger, hand, or wrist

If not treated quickly, the infection can cause tissue death. If enough tissue dies, you may need to have the affected body part removed (amputation). Untreated infection can also spread to nearby tissues or into the bloodstream.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your provider

  • Chills

  • Redness, warmth, pain, or smelly drainage from a wound or incision

  • Swelling or pain that gets worse

  • Color changes in the skin

  • Symptoms that don’t get better, or get worse

  • New symptoms