Hello, my name is Gregory. When I was a young lad, I had to enter the health care world in an unexpected way. I developed a serious disease out of the blue that took doctors by surprise. I went through so many different testing procedures before my doctors could diagnose the rare disease. Everyone around me reeled as they tried to understand the purpose and process of the diagnostic tests. I hope to help others understand these important tests better through this website. Please come by often to learn all you need to know about medical diagnostics and working closely with health care professionals.
Syndactyly, also called webbed fingers or conjoined fingers, is a congenital condition that can affect children. This condition is characterized by the presence of two or more fingers that are joined together. The fingers may be connected by only skin and soft tissues or the bones may be fused together. Here are five things parents need to know about syndactyly.
What are the signs of syndactyly?
If your child is born with syndactyly, you'll notice that some of their fingers are conjoined. These fingers may be connected by skin at the base of the fingers, which gives the fingers a webbed appearance. They may be conjoined along their entire length, giving the appearance of a wider-then-normal finger. These symptoms can be present on one or both hands, and if both hands are affected, the condition may be symmetrical, meaning that the same fingers are affected on each hand. Since these signs are readily apparent, your child will be referred to a specialist after birth for further examination and treatment.
What causes syndactyly?
Syndactyly is associated with several different genetic abnormalities. It can occur as a symptom of another genetic syndrome, like Holt-Oram syndrome or Apert syndrome. However, not all cases are caused by genetics. Between 10% and 40% of cases have a familial link, while the rest are sporadic events. These sporadic events are both nonhereditary and nonsyndromic, which means that they aren't inherited and aren't part of a genetic syndrome. Genetic testing can be performed to see if your child's condition was caused by a genetic syndrome.
How common is syndactyly?
Syndactyly is a fairly common congenital condition. It is reported to affect one out of every 2,500 to 3,000 infants. In percentage terms, this means that between 0.04% and 0.03% of babies are born with this condition. This condition tends to affect male children more often than females. It's also more common among Caucasian children than among children of other races.
How is syndactyly diagnosed?
Your child's doctor can diagnose syndactyly through a physical examination. The doctor will carefully move your child's fingers to determine if the fingers are joined with soft tissues or with bone. If a bone connection is suspected, this will be confirmed with x-ray images. These images will show which bones are connected and allow the doctor to create a treatment plan.
How is syndactyly treated?
Syndactyly is treated with surgery. While you may want to have this surgery done immediately, immediate surgery isn't necessarily in your child's best interest. The ideal timeline for surgery varies based on which fingers are connected. If the thumb and first finger are connected, they'll need to be separated soon so that your child can start learning to grasp objects; this should be done by the time your child is six months old. On the other hand, the middle finger and ring finger can be separated later, between two and four years of age. Your child's surgeon will tell you when the surgery should be performed.
Surgical separation is a delicate procedure because the hand not only needs to work properly, but needs to look aesthetically pleasing. The surgeon will carefully separate the conjoined skin or bone, then sew the sides of the fingers closed. The incisions will be covered with full-thickness skin grafts. If both hands are affected, they will be repaired during separate surgical procedures; this allows your child full use of one hand while the other is healing.
If your baby's fingers are conjoined, either fully or by only a small web of skin, he or she may have syndactyly and should be evaluated by a pediatric plastic surgeon immediately. Contact a representative from an establishment like Shriner's Hospital Cincinnati for more details.