Contracture

Constraint of a joint or part of the body caused by shrivelled tissue, usually scar tissue. Intense scarring which can cause contracture occurs after severe burns or inflammation. Scars in muscle are caused by tissue decline during inflammation or by a blood supply disturbance after wounds. Ligaments and capsules can shrivel after injury or inflammation of the joint. Contracture commonly results from a long-term inability to move a joint: muscles and the tissue of the joint shrink. This can occur in paralysis, after long spells in bed, through temporary immobilization of joints after injury, or if a joint is kept immobile to avoid pain. Active or passive movement of the joint by physiotherapy is important to avoid contracture. Dupuytren’s contracture usually occurs in older patients, and is crookedness of one or more fingers caused by shrinking of the fibrous sheet in the palm of the hand. The cause is unknown, but the condition often occurs within families prone to diabetes, liver complaints, rheumatism and epilepsy. Treatment is by removal of the affected part of the fibrous sheet.

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