Polydactyly of Fingers in Children

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Combining training in adult and pediatric orthopedics, hand surgery, plastic surgery and microsurgery allows our surgeons to provide a comprehensive level of care unmatched in most other hospital settings.

--Donald S. Bae, MD, associate in Orthopedic Surgery, Boston Children's Hospital; Brian I. Labow, MD, principal investigator, Plastic Surgery, Boston Children's Hospital

Please note: these pages focus primarily on polydactyly of the fingers. For details on polydactyly of the thumb, see thumb duplication.

If your baby or child has been born with one or more extra fingers (polydactyly), we know that you and your family are concerned. So, please know that at Children’s Hospital Boston, we will approach your child’s treatment and care with sensitivity and support—for your child and your whole family.   

If your child has polydactyly, it means that he has extra fingers and/or toes.

   •    Polydactyly is a fairly common congenital defect that often runs in families. At Children’s, it’s the most common
        congenital hand problem that we see.
   •    If your child has an extra finger, it may occur in any of three places of his hand:

               -    on the small finger side—most common (ulnar)
               -    on the thumb side, also called thumb duplication—less common (radial)
               -    in the middle of the hand—least common (central)

   •    The extra fingers are usually smaller than his other fingers and are abnormally developed.
   •    Your child’s extra finger can be made up of:
               -    skin and soft tissue (most easily removed)
               -    skin, soft tissue and bone (no joint—more challenging to remove/remodel)
               -    skin, soft tissue and bone with joint (closer to a fully-formed finger—most challenging to remove/remodel)

   •    Polydactyly can sometimes be detected by prenatal ultrasound, and is apparent at birth; the underlying structure of
        the finger and the course for treatment are determined with x-ray.
   •    In the United States, polydactyly occurs in one out of 500 to 1,000 newborns. Boys and girls are affected about
   •    African-American children are more likely to have polydactyly of on the little finger side; Asians and Caucasians, on
        the thumb side.
   •    Most forms of polydactyly are treated surgically. Surgery is usually done when the child is between 1 and 2 years
        old and can range from fairly simple to highly complex. Some mild cases can be treated non-surgically.

How Children’s Hospital Boston approaches polydactyly

You can have peace of mind knowing that the skilled experts in our Orthopedic Center’s Hand and Orthopedic Upper Extremity Program and our Plastic Surgery Department’s Hand and Microsurgery Reconstructive Program have treated thousands of babies and children with hand problems, ranging from the simple to the highly complex. So we can provide your child with expert diagnosis, treatment and care—as well as the benefits of some of the most advanced clinical and scientific research in the world.

Our Orthopedic Center is nationally known as the preeminent center for the care of children and young adults with a wide range of developmental, congenital, neuromuscular, sports related, traumatic and post-traumatic problems of the musculoskeletal system.

As one of the largest pediatric plastic surgery centers in the United States, our Department of Pediatric Plastic Surgery provides comprehensive care and treatment for a wide variety of congenital and acquired conditions, including hand deformities.


Polydactyly: Reviewed by Donald Bae, MD, Brian Labow, MD, and Amir Taghinia, MD
© Children’s Hospital Boston, 2011

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