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Syndactyly in Children

  • Overview

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

    If your baby or child has been born with webbed or conjoined fingers (syndactyly), we share your concern. 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.

    Please note: while syndactyly can affect a child’s toes as well as fingers, this section will focus mainly on syndactyly of the fingers, since the condition poses more complex challenges for hand-and-finger use than for foot-and-toe use.

    Here is some basic information about syndactyly:

    If your child has syndactyly, it means that his fingers and/or toes are webbed or joined, and that the condition was present at birth.

    • Syndactyly is a fairly common congenital defect that often runs in families. At Children’s, it’s one of the most common congenital hand problems that we treat.
    • The condition occurs in approximately one out of 2,500-3,000 newborns; affects boy babies more often than girls; and affects Caucasians more often than Blacks or Asians.
    • It affects both hands (bilateral) about 50 percent of the time.
    • Syndactyly most often occurs between the middle and ring fingers.
    • The condition can occur:
      • in isolation and sporadically—meaning by itself and for no identifiable reason
      • as an inherited trait (in about 10 to 40 percent of cases)
      • as part of a genetic syndrome, such as Apert syndrome, Holt-Oram syndrome or Poland syndrome
    • Syndactyly 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 by physician exam and x-rays. See Tests.
    • Caucasian children are more likely to have syndactyly than African-American or Asian children.
    • All except the mildest forms of syndactyly are treated surgically. Surgery is usually done when the child is between 6 months 1 year old; surgery can range from fairly straightforward to very complex. See Treatment & Care.

    How Children’s Hospital Boston approaches syndactyly

    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.

    Syndactyly: Reviewed by Donald Bae, MD

    © Children’s Hospital Boston, 2012

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