Pennington Cancer Center Innovating Treatment for Debilitating Finger Condition

BATON ROUGE, La. – While most have heard the term “trigger finger,” there is a similar, lesser known condition affecting the fingers called “Dupuytren’s contracture.” Dr. Andrew Lauve has treated 15 patients at Baton Rouge General’s (BRG) Pennington Cancer Center with simple, painless radiation therapy to slow or even reverse the progression of early stage Dupuytren’s of the hands or feet.

Dupuytren’s contracture falls under the broader category of Dupuytren disease, a systemic problem affecting the hands and feet of at least 10 million Americans. It progresses slowly, usually doesn’t hurt, and leaves some people with their fingers permanently bent.

“When the fingers can't be straightened completely, it can complicate everyday activities and affect a person’s quality of life, with the potential to be debilitating in the advanced stages,” said Dr. Lauve, a radiation oncologist at BRG’s Pennington Cancer Center.

While trigger finger involves the tendon, Dupuytren's contracture involves the underlying tissue, called the palmar fascia. Knots of tissue form under the skin, eventually creating a thick cord that can pull one or more fingers into a bent position. It mainly affects the two fingers farthest from the thumb and is often mistaken for arthritis or tendonitis.

People who are not experiencing pain or losing any function as a result of Dupuytren’s may opt to take the “wait and see” approach. But, radiation therapy is most effective during this early stage and has proved to be a viable alternative to other therapies, softening the affected tissue and helping to eliminate inflammation and tightness.

Depending on the severity of the contracture, there are various traditional treatments for Dupuytren’s, including needling, collagenase injections and surgery. Surgical removal of the affected tissue is typically the option for people with advanced symptoms and results in a longer recovery, physical therapy and sometimes, a skin graft.

“The standard interventions we’ve seen for Dupuytren’s contracture can be difficult on the patient and oftentimes don’t work well,” said Dr. Lauve. “With radiation therapy, patients are treated with five quick treatments, then after two months, treated with five more.”

In most cases, doctors can diagnose Dupuytren's contracture by the look and feel of the hand, sometimes checking to see if a person can put their hand flat on a tabletop. It’s not clear what causes it, but some groups are at an increased risk, including men over the age of 50, people of Northern European descent, those with a family history or diabetes, and tobacco users.

For more information on treating Dupuytren’s with radiation therapy, visit here or call (225) 763-4300.

About Baton Rouge General Medical Center
Baton Rouge General Medical Center is the area’s first community hospital with 588 licensed beds between two campuses. Baton Rouge General opened its doors in 1900, and has provided the Greater Baton Rouge community with high-quality healthcare for generations. An accredited teaching hospital since 1991, Baton Rouge General serves as an affiliate of Tulane University School of Medicine, and offers other medical education programs, including a School of Nursing, School of Radiologic Technology, Family Medicine Residency Program, Internal Medicine Residency Program, and Sports Medicine Fellowship Program. For more information, visit BRGeneral.org, find us on Facebook at Facebook.com/BatonRougeGeneral and follow us on Twitter at @BRGeneral.

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