Enzyme (collagenase) injection to treat Dupuytren's contracture

This is the most recent addition to Dupuytren's therapies. Dupuytren's contracture is characterized by excessive collagen deposition which appears as cords causing an extension deficit, i.e. a bent finger. These finger cords causing metacarpophalangeal and/or proximal interphalangeal joint contracture (contracture at the base or middle joint of a finger) are targeted by a non-operative method injecting an enzyme (Clostridial collagenase, brand names: Xiaflex or, in Europe, Xiapex). This enzyme weakens the cord which then, in a next step, can be pulled and mechanically broken. Bent fingers thus become straight and functional again. One of the early studies proposes enzyme injection as a safe and effective method of treating as an alternative to surgical fasciectomy: "In fact some of our patients who have had fasciectomy on one hand but have been treated in our trials for the contralateral hand have commented in glowing terms that the less invasive injection treatment was far superior to their surgical experience. … To date our recurrence rates are low in the clinical trials described and are < 5% at 4 years from our first open-label clinical trial using 10,000 U of collagenase. There have been no disease extensions to other fingers." Link: abstract_enzyme_article, full text see literature.

There is already good and longer term evidence of the therapy's effectiveness. Phase 3 of clinical trials has been completed and Xiaflex has been approved by the US FDA in February 2010 for treating Dupuytren's contracture and by the EU in February 2011.

Important: From 2020 onwards the collagenase injection (brand names Xiaflex and Xiapex) will not be sold anymore outside the USA. The reason for this decision seems to be purely financial. The manufacturing company Endo is focussing on the more profitable US market. If you are a patient outside the USA and are looking for a minimally invasive treatment, needle fasciotomy currently is a still available alternative https://www.dupuytren-online.info/needle_aponeurotomy.html .


Patients' experience

If you are interested in experience of patients with collagenase injections please visit our web page "Personal experiences" and in our forum e.g. the thread "Just had Xiaflex ". You can find many more reports by searching our forum for Xiaflex. Initially collagenase had been provided under the brand name AA4500. The current brand name used by its manufacturer Auxilium/Endo is Xiaflex.

Short and longer term patient satisfaction after treatment with Xiapex has been reviewed by J Bradley and D Warwick "Patient Satisfaction With Collagenase"J Hand Surg Am 41 (2016):689-97  abstract.


Video of collagenase treatment

Below are several YouToube links from a patient, Samantha Hoffman, who documented various phases prior, during, and after her collagenase treatment. It does not show much of the procedure itself but shows results and related feelings.

prior to treatment

after the injection

before breaking the cords

after the manipulation

the day after

four days after



A more advertizing video, also showing Drs. Maria Badalamente and Lawrence Hurst, the inventors of the collagenase treatment, is on http://video.aol.de/video-detail/frozen-finger-fix/446064678

Collagenase and NA - what is the difference?

The treatment of Dupuytren's contracture with collagenase injection is similar to needle aponeurotomy (also called NA or percutaneous needle fasciotomy, abbreviated as PNF). Both treatments address already bent fingers and both start with weakening the contracting cord. NA does this by stitching a thin needle repeatedly into the cord and thus weaking it mechanically. Collagenase does this weakening by injecting a small amount of collagenase, which locally weakens/dissolves a part of the cord. After this weaking step both therapies stretch the finger mechanically until the weakened cord actually snaps and the finger becomes straight again. The difference between collagenase and NA is essentially the way by which the cord is weakened before it is broken mechanically. Injection of collagenase is therefore sometimes also described as enzyme fasciotomy.

An indirect comparison between collagenase and NA is included in the last paragraph of van Rijssen et al. "Five-Year Results of a Randomized Clinical Trial on Treatment in Dupuytren’s Disease: Percutaneous Needle Fasciotomy versus Limited Fasciectomy" Plastic Reconstr Surg 129 (2012) p 469–477. abstract . Recent direct comparisons of collagenase injection and needle fasciotomy did not reveal any difference in the immediate and longer term outcome study1 , study2 , cord_examination .


In Februrary 2012 the German Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG) reviewed collagenase injection and stated that so far no advantage of collagenase has been proven relative to PNF (NA) or classical hand surgery summary and MNT. Consequently Pfizer withdrew Xiaflex from the German market in May 2012. Later Pfizer completely stopped marketing Xiapex; as of today (2018) the Swedish Sobi is marketing of Xiapex in all of Europe..


Collagenase for Ledderhose disease and Peyronie's disease

Collagenase is not yet tested for treatment of Ledderhose disease, maybe due to smaller market opportunities or maybe due to dominating nodules rather than cords. A thread in our forum reports on an off-label use of Xiaflex for Ledderhose "Xiaflex". - Collagenase has been proposed as therapy for Peyronie's disease, Phase III trials have been completed and Auxilium has applied for approval by the FDA.


Page last modified: 12/30/2020