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Tenosynovitis

Abstract

Tenosynovitis is the inflammation of the fluid-filled sheath (called the synovium) that surrounds a tendon, typically leading to joint pain, swelling, and stiffness. Tenosynovitis can be either infectious or noninfectious. Common clinical manifestations of noninfectious tenosynovitis include de Quervain tendinopathy and stenosing tenosynovitis (more commonly known as trigger finger)

Signs and symptoms

The most common manifestation of infectious tenosynovitis is in the flexor tendons of the fingers, though infections of other tendon sheaths have been reported as well. The four cardinal signs of infectious flexor tenosynovitis are tenderness to touch along the flexor aspect of the finger, symmetric enlargement of the affected finger, the finger being held in slight flexion at rest, and severe pain with passive extension. Fever may also be present but is uncommon.

Pathogenesis

Tenosynovitis most commonly results from the introduction of bacteria into a sheath through a puncture or laceration wound, though bacteria can also be spread from adjacent tissue or via hematogenous spread. The clinical presentation is therefore as acute infection following trauma. The infection can be mono- or polymicrobial and can vary depending on the nature of the trauma. The most common pathogenic agent is staphylococcus aureus introduced from the skin. Other bacteria linked to infectious tenosynovitis include Pasteurella multocida (associated with animal bites), Eikenella spp. (associated with IV drug use), and Mycobacterium marinum (associated with wounds exposed to fresh or salt water). Additionally, sexually active patients are at risk for hematogenous spread due to Neisseria gonorrhea (see infectious arthritis).

Noninfectious tenosynovitis can arise from overuse or secondary to other systemic inflammatory conditions such as [rheumatoid arthritis] or [reactive arthritis]. If left untreated, the tendons may undergo stenosis, causing conditions such as de Quervain’s and trigger finger.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of tenosynovitis is typically made clinically after a thorough patient history and physical exam. Aspirated fluid can also be cultured to identify the infectious organism. X-rays are typically unremarkable but can help rule out a broken bone or a foreign body

Treatment

The mainstay of treatment for tenosynovitis includes symptom alleviation, antibiotic therapy, and surgery. Mild tenosynovitis causing small scale swelling can be treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce inflammation and as an analgesic. Resting the affected tendons is essential for recovery; a brace is often recommended. Physical or occupational therapy may also be beneficial in reducing symptoms.

Most infectious tenosynovitis cases should be managed with tendon sheath irrigation and drainage, with or without debridement of surrounding necrotic tissue, along with treatment with broad-spectrum antibiotics. In severe cases, amputation may even be necessary to prevent the further spread of infection. Following surgical intervention, antibiotic therapy is continued and adjusted based on the results of the fluid culture.

Prognosis

Treatment for infectious tenosynovitis is more effective the earlier the condition is identified and treated. Factors that worsen patient outcomes include being older than 43, having diabetes mellitus, and a polymicrobial infection.