Congenital Hand Differences

A simple handshake can be a physically and emotionally challenging task for someone born with a congenital hand difference.  Our goal at Wellspring Craniofacial Group is to tend to both challenges.  Surprisingly common, hand differences affect 1 out of every 20 babies and can impact both the shape and function of a child’s hand.  These types of issues develop while a baby is still in the womb.  Accordingly, most are not identified until the time of birth, though occasionally, they are diagnosed prior to birth on ultrasound imaging.

The congenital hand differences that we most frequently see are one of the following or a combination of the following:

Syndactyly

Syndactyly occurs when fingers (or toes) connect to one another, resulting in the appearance that they are webbed or fused together.  This condition can affect only one hand, or both hands and feet, and it can affect just two digits or up to all five. This is a fairly common condition, affecting 1 in 2,000 newborns.

Polydactyly

Polydactyly is when a baby is born with extra fingers or toes.  The extra fingers or toes may be small and misshaped, or may be fully developed complete with bones and nerves.  The cause is often hereditary with other family members having the same diagnosis, but it can often occur spontaneously with no family history.

Amniotic Band Syndrome

Amniotic Band Syndrome refers to a spectrum of babies born with the appearance of bands around fingers, toes, arms or legs.  No two patients have the same physical findings, and digits can be incomplete, fused (such as syndactyly) or absent.

As far as timing of surgery is concerned, it is a balancing act of waiting for the child to be old enough to recover well from surgery and of correcting the issue before it becomes a problem.

Surgical treatments that we can perform include:

  • Separating webbed, or joined, fingers
  • Removing extra fingers
  • Reconstructing the fingers or other parts of the hand

Physical therapy often accompanies our procedures. It starts after the initial healing period, and helps to ensure that the hand and fingers are functioning properly.  Our hands play such a big role in activities throughout the day, and at Wellspring Craniofacial Group, our central goal in hand surgery is restoring both the function and appearance of the hand.

Resources:

AAOS-Ortho Info-American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/)

ASSH-American Society for Surgery of the Hand (http://www.assh.org/handcare/)