Dupuytren: Disease for hand function

June 27, 2011 2:43:03 PM PDT
Dupuytren's foundation it's a disease most people have never heard of and probably can't begin to pronounce. But three percent of the US population has it -- a hand deformity that can make it impossible to straighten their fingers or even their toes.

It's a disease so old, it may date back all the way to the time of the Vikings. Surgery used to be the only way to fix it until now.

When Patrick Bergeron puts his hands to work, he can build almost anything. A house, even an airplane he's got back in the garage.

"I've made a living using my hands my whole life", said Bergeron.

But for 20 years, there were things his hands couldn't do, like picking up a jar or reaching in to get his keys.

"I couldn't get them in, couldn't get them in my pocket", said Bergeron.

His x-rays tell the story. Patrick had Dupuytren's contracture, a buildup of collagen that forms thick bands, pulling in the third and fourth fingers on each hand. Doctor George injects an enzyme called Xiaflex at three points to dissolve that tough band in his finger.

"That enzyme over a 25-hour period will basically erode or help to deteriorate this band", says hand surgeon, Dr. Eric George.

24 hours later, some local anesthetic is given along with a little manipulating to separate the tissue. And after one big pop, for the first time in 20 years, Patrick's finger is straight.

Now, after having all his fingers straightened, Patrick's got a lot more projects on his list and a lot less to worry about. A handy guy whose hands won't be a problem anymore.