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Syndactyly

Sometimes referred to as webbed fingers or webbed toes, syndactyly is a very common hand or foot condition, and occurs before birth. Whether your child has simple or complex syndactyly, you can trust that the orthopedic team at Cook Children's has the expertise to provide the right care for your child.

What is syndactyly?

Syndactyly is when a baby is born with two or more fingers or toes joined or "webbed" together. Syndactyly can be:

  • Simple: The fingers or toes are joined by just skin.
  • Complex: The bones and other parts of the fingers or toes are joined. The joined part can go from the base to the tip of the finger or toe or just part of the way up.

A baby can have syndactyly in one or both hands or feet.

What causes syndactyly?

Syndactyly happens before a baby is born. It is not caused by anything a mother did or didn't do while pregnant. When a baby's hands and feet are first forming, they're shaped like mittens. Then the digits (the fingers and toes) divide. In babies with syndactyly, the fingers or toes do not divide completely.

Who gets syndactyly?

Any baby can be born with syndactyly. In fact it is fairly common, occurring in 1 of every 2,000-3,000 births each year. Syndactyly may run in families. Most babies who have it don't have other health problems. But sometimes, syndactyly happens as part of a genetic syndrome, such as Down's syndrome.

How is syndactyly diagnosed?

Syndactyly may be seen before birth on an ultrasound. Otherwise, doctors diagnose it when the baby is born.

Doctors do X-rays to see if the bones are joined. This helps surgeons decide what kind of treatment is needed.

How is syndactyly treated?

Most babies with syndactyly of the hand benefit from surgery to separate the fingers. Surgery will help them use their fingers better. The surgery is usually done when a child is 1 to 2 years old.

Occupational therapy (OT) and home exercises can help a child's recovery after surgery. Most babies with syndactyly of the toes do not need surgery. They'll be able to walk and run well.

What is the long-term outlook?

After surgery, most children with syndactyly can do all of the usual things that kids do. They gain full use of their hands, and there's very little evidence, if any, in the appearance of the hands.

For children with a severe case of syndactyly, reconstructive surgery may be necessary of provide full functioning and an improved appearance of the hand. These children may need to have follow-up visits for a few years in case additional reconstructive surgery is necessary.

If your child has syndactyly, offer support as your child learns how to use the hands or feet well.

We're here to help.

If your child has been diagnosed, you probably have lots of questions. We can help. If you would like to schedule an appointment, refer a patient or speak to our staff, please call our offices at 682-885-4405.

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