SAEM Clinical Images Series: Insidiously Contracted Hand


A 64-year-old Caucasian male with a history of alcohol use disorder and tobacco use disorder presents with painless bilateral hand contractures that have been worsening for the past several months. He denies any recent trauma, fever, chills, or decreased sensation. The patient works as a construction worker.

Vitals: BP 143/83 ; HR 94; RR 18; T 98.6°F; O2 saturation 98% on room air

Musculoskeletal: He has bilateral palmar contractures proximal to the fourth digits. No tenderness to palpation along digits. Passive extension of the digits is limited bilaterally but does not elicit pain. When asked to place his palm flat on the table, there is notable contracture of the bilateral fourth metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joint (a positive Hueston’s tabletop test). No erythema or cellulitic changes are appreciated.


Dupuytren’s Contracture is a clinical diagnosis that most commonly presents as painless loss of extension of the fourth and fifth phalanx. Collagen deposition and subsequent fibrosis within the palmar fascia cause nodule formation along the flexor tendons near the distal palmar crease. Clinically this appears as puckering, tethering, and/or dimpling of the skin of the palm (as shown in the photograph). Accompanying joint rigidity and loss of full extension of the digit typically can take years to fully develop. Pain or inflammatory findings are not commonly seen unless there is an underlying tenosynovitis. Without signs of infection, outpatient management with Hand Surgery is the appropriate initial management.

Risk factors for the development of Dupuytren’s contracture include northern European descent, age greater than 50 years, and diabetes. The condition has been associated with tobacco use disorder, alcohol use disorder, jobs that require repetitive handling tasks or vibration, and localized fibrotic pathologies including Peyronie’s disease.

Take-Home Points

  • Dupuytren’s contracture presents as a painless palmar contraction (typically proximal to the 4th or 5th digit) that impedes finger extension.
  • A progressive condition, Dupuytren’s is best managed through Hand Surgery referral provided there is no evidence of superinfection.
  • Repetitive motion occupations, tobacco use, alcohol use, and diabetes are key risk factors.

  • Shih B, Bayat A. Scientific understanding and clinical management of Dupuytren disease. Nat Rev Rheumatol 2010; 6:715.   Trojian TH, Chu SM. Dupuytren’s disease: diagnosis and treatment. Am Fam Physician 2007; 76:86.