Needle Aponeurotomy (NA) or Percutaneous Needle Fasciotomy (PNF) is an outpatient surgical procedure that became popular in France more than 20 years ago, and since then has been used in other countries as well.
The aim of NA is to straighten contracted fingers with minimal side-effects and (with the help of physiotherapy if necessary) achieve a functional finger and hand again.
A needle fasciotomy many times is the standard treatment for mild Dupuytren’s contracture, although some surgeons prefer to perform surgery as the results of actually removing the tissue rather than just cutting it tend to last longer. The procedure is sometimes also known as a Needle Aponeurotomy, or a Percutaneous Needle Fasciotomy (PNF) (percutaneous means ‘done through the skin’).
A needle fasciotomy is usually performed as an outpatient procedure. This means that you will not need to be admitted to hospital. You will be given a local anaesthetic that will numb your hand without making you lose consciousness.
During the surgery, a very fine needle will be inserted into the fibrous bands (the cords) in either your palm or your fingers. This will be used to slice through the cord and divide it up under your skin. By cutting up the thickened tissue, your surgeon will release the tightness that was forcing your finger into the flexed (bent) position.
The benefits of needle fasciotomy include:
- a reduction in the deformity in your fingers
- a faster recovery compared with more extensive surgery
- it is suitable for people who are unable to have more extensive surgery, such as the very frail or elderly
- it has a low risk (around 1%) of complications
The rate of reccurrence for Dupuytren’s contracture is very high. As many as 50% of people who have a needle fasciotomy will have Dupuytren’s contracture again within 3-5 years. Often the needle fasciotomy is then repeated again.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued full guidance to the NHS in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland on this procedure.
Our doctors and clinics page lists some UK surgeons who have experience treating Dupuytren’s with PNF.
A patient describes his experience of PNF here with some before and after photographs.
Examples with before and after photos are available on our partner site.
For the non-squeamish, we show a link to a video of this treatment here.