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Musculoskeletal Care. 2010 Dec;8(4):179-88. doi: 10.1002/msc.180.

Swan neck deformities in rheumatoid arthritis: a qualitative study on the patients' perspectives on hand function problems and finger splints.

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Department of Rheumatology, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands.



 To identify hand function problems and the reasons for choosing a specific finger splint in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and swan neck deformities.


 A qualitative study was performed alongside a randomized, controlled cross-over trial comparing the effectiveness of two types of finger splints (the silver ring splint [SRS] and the prefabricated thermoplastic splint [PTS]) in 50 patients with RA and swan neck deformities. Questions on the patients' main hand function problem and reasons for choosing a specific splint type were performed at baseline and after using each splint. The qualitative analyses included the identification of meaning units and (sub)concepts related to hand function problems and splint preferences.


 RA patients with swan neck deformities experience problems with flexion initiation, painful proximal interphalangeal joint hyperextension, grip activities and comprehensive hand function activities. Reasons for preferring or not preferring a specific type of finger splint included: effect, ease of use, appearance, comfort and side effects. Apart from the splint slipping off and a negative attitude towards the appearance of the splint, which appeared to be more frequently mentioned in connection with the SRS, no clear pattern of positive or negative appreciation of either type of splint could be distinguished.


 RA patients with swan neck deformities experience a variety of problems, including impairments in functions and limitations in daily activities. With the prescription of finger splints, a substantial number of potentially positive and negative consequences of their use need to be taken into account.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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