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A helping hand: Surgeon helps guitarist continue passion for music

Sep 1, 2022

As a classically trained Brazilian guitarist, Eduardo “Duda” Lucena’s hands are the instrument that brings the music to life. His fingers move in fluid movement to create a seamless mix of Brazilian music with a flavor of jazz on top, as he calls it.

For someone who relies on his hands, when Lucena began developing stiffness and discomfort in his left hand, it became an issue he couldn’t ignore.

“I practice a lot of repetition on my fingers, so that stressed the tendons,” said Lucena.

This irritation of the tendon, known as trigger finger, is one of the most common issues a hand surgeon sees, according to Dr. Eric Angermeier, a hand surgeon with East Cooper Medical Center.

“It’s not just these elite level musicians,” Angermeier said. “We see this in ordinary folks just using their hands for day to day activities.”

Trigger finger is caused by friction inside of the tendon sheath, which causes inflammation and prevents the tendon from gliding smoothly, said Angermeier. This can cause swelling and pain as the finger gets caught or hung up.

While anyone can experience trigger finger, people who use their hands for tedious work, such as dentists, barbers or skilled manual laborers, might be more susceptible to this inflammation, said Angermeier.

Lucena has put in countless hours using his hands to perfect his craft. He started playing classic guitar and composing his own music at age 12 while living in Brazil. At 18, he began studying classical guitar and receiving musical training at a distinguished music conservatory called Conservatorio Pernambucano. Unbeknownst to him, Lucena’s journey to Charleston began in Los Cabos where he started being influenced by jazz music. It’s also where he met his wife who is from Charleston.

The couple planted roots in Charleston nearly 15 years ago. Lucena appreciates the jazz scene that Charleston has to offer. Lucena plays four shows each week in the Charleston area at venues such as the Charleston Grill, Bevi Bene Brewing Company, Bistro A Vin and other local venues.

Fortunately for Lucena, his trigger finger didn’t keep him away from playing guitar for too long.

Treatment for trigger finger initially begins non-operatively, said Angermeier. The patient rests for a while and uses anti-inflammatory medication to relieve the issue. The next step is a steroid injection. If these initial treatments do not work, the patient undergoes a minimally-invasive surgery, which was the case for Lucena.

This wasn’t the first time Lucena had surgery for a hand-related issue. Nearly four years ago, Lucena broke his right wrist after slipping from a roof while he was working for a solar energy company. A few months prior, he started having discomfort in his finger, which ended up being his first case of trigger finger. When he felt a similar sensation in his left hand, it was likely trigger finger was the cause once again.

The minor surgical procedure includes an inch-long incision in the palm. The goal of the surgery is to loosen the tight areas around the tendon and allow the tendon to move smoothly, said Angermeier.

Typically, a patient can use their hand for light activity right after surgery. It might take a few weeks for normal activity to resume.

Angermeier, who said he enjoys and appreciates music, listened to Lucena’s music while performing the surgery. Knowing he helped Lucena get back to doing what he loves made the surgery more impactful.

“Particularly the Brazilian classical guitar, it’s just amazing to watch what they’re doing with their hands,” said Angermeier. “To see a patient go through surgery and so quickly get back to doing what they love, what they do to earn a living and what their passion is. It’s really rewarding as a surgeon.”

Lucena took it easy while recovering from the surgery. However, he wasn’t out of work because he was still able to sing. Now, Lucena is back playing his regular gigs and working on an album with instrumental songs and his original lyrics that comes out this fall.