Medical Q&As

Dupuytren's contracture - what is it?

Can you tell me anything about the contractures that sometimes occur in the third and fourth fingers of older people?

The contracture you refer to is known as Dupuytren’s contracture, which is very commonly seen in elderly people. It is due to a thickening of a sheet of tissue in the palm of the hand known as the palmar aponeurosis. The thickening of the tissue causes a flexion deformity of the fingers, which gradually flexes the fingers down onto the palm. This process usually begins in the fourth or ring finger, spreading to the fifth and sometimes the middle finger. It can occur in both hands and is occasionally seen in the plantar surface of the foot. The palmar tissue can thicken considerably giving rise to severe flexion deformity, which can result in several fingers being permanently flexed onto the palm thereby seriously impairing the use of the hand. The deformity can be surgically corrected by severing the contracture, which enables the person to extend the affected fingers.