What Are Congenital Hand Anomalies?
Congenital hand anomalies are deformities of the extremities that are present from birth. As with any congenital difference, they will have profound social, emotional, and physical effects on both the child and their family. These structural issues can interfere with the child’s ability to move their fingers and/or thumb as they get older, which can cause lasting disability as the child learns to interact with the world around them. These birth defects can range from mild to severe deformities—some can affect function as the child grows, while others do not.
Symptoms of Congenital Hand Anomalies
Depending on the type and severity of a deformity, the symptoms may be subtle or obvious. Common issues associated with congenital hand anomalies include the following:
- Altered or limited function
- Over- or underdeveloped limbs
- Extra or missing thumb or fingers
- Fused part of the hand
If you have any concern over the structure or function of your child’s hand, you should visit a reconstructive hand surgeon to learn if a congenital anomaly may be present and how to move forward with treatment to maximize the appearance and function of the affected limb.
Causes of Congenital Hand Anomalies
The upper extremities develop in the first trimester of pregnancy. When there is an issue during this growth process, the arms and hands can develop congenital anomalies. While certain deformities are inherited genetically, others have an unknown cause.
Types of Congenital Hand Anomalies
There are many types of congenital hand anomalies that can occur. Some of the most common pediatric hand deformities include:
- Syndactyly: occurs when two or more fingers do not separate in utero and are fused together—also referred to as “webbed” fingers. This is most common in the middle and ring fingers.
- Polydactyly: can cause the growth of one or more extra fingers on the thumb side or the pinky side of the hand. This is a particularly common deformity, and the extra digits can often be surgically removed and the area reconstructed.
- Thumb hypoplasia: is when the thumb is abnormally small or underdeveloped. This can range from a thumb that is slightly small but still has all of its structures, to a thumb that is undersized and has disabilities from missing or underdeveloped bones, tendons, or other parts.
- Congenital trigger thumb: Overgrowth of the tendon can cause the thumb to lock, click, or pop when it is being bent or straightened. In some cases, the thumb cannot be straightened at all.
In addition to these hand conditions, there are other, more rare deformities that can develop in utero, such as central ray deficiency (lobster claw hand), macrodactyly, arthrogryposis, and more.
Congenital Hand Anomalies Treatment
The treatment for a child’s hand anomaly will be determined according to their specific growth pattern and the details surrounding their problem. The best treatment for a child will be based on factors such as their age, medical history, and the severity of their deformity. Depending on your child’s specific condition, one or more of the following treatment options may be recommended:
- Finger manipulation or stretching
- Splinting of the affected areas
- Skin grafts
- Separation of fused fingers
- Removal of extra digits
- Physical or occupational therapy
- Complex surgical reconstruction
If surgery is necessary, this can often be performed as early as infancy to correct certain deformities, ensuring your child continues to grow properly. We recommend an initial evaluation as soon as possible after birth to determine the ideal treatment plan for your child. Reconstructive surgery may also be necessary to provide optimal function for your child’s hand.
We understand that congenital hand anomalies can be very upsetting for parents. Our reconstructive hand surgeons are highly experienced at effectively correcting these deformities through treatments ranging from conservative means to complex reconstructive surgeries. The Institute for Hand Surgery at LIPSG is committed to helping improve form and function of pediatric patients with deformities, helping your child to live a complete and fulfilling life.