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Arthrogryposis is a rare condition that involves stiff or contracted joints. The condition is also called arthrogryposis multiplex congenita (AMC).
A joint contracture occurs when muscles, tendons or other tissues get short and stiff, preventing the joints from moving normally. Joint contracture is most common in the arms and legs, but it can happen in other joints too. It can affect a few joints or many; the more joints affected, the more severe the condition.
The cause of arthrogryposis is not known, but there are a few potential causes including:
Before a diagnosis is made, the doctor will often order tests such as:
Arthrogryposis is usually diagnosed through a physical examination by a doctor. Sometimes, the condition is diagnosed through an ultrasound before a baby is born. The tests help diagnose the injury and help the doctor decide the best treatment.
The main treatment for arthrogryposis is therapy. Therapy can be done by an occupational therapist, a physical therapist or both. Therapy usually starts soon after a baby is diagnosed with the condition and may include stretching, range of motion exercises, splinting or casting and assisting with normal every day activities.
Therapists at Children’s Hospital Colorado work with families/caregivers to create a program for each child under the direction of the doctors.
If therapy alone is not enough, some children may need surgery. Surgery is usually done to improve how the joint moves and works. These surgeries may involve the bones, joints, tendons, muscles or other tissues.
Most people with arthrogryposis will live a long life. If the condition is severe and affects the brain and spine, your child may have a shorter lifespan.
Arthrogryposis is non-progressive, which means it doesn’t get worse over time. With treatment, things can improve. Most children will improve their range of motion and ability to move their arms and legs, and do activities of daily life. With therapy, the contractures often improve dramatically.
At Children’s Colorado, our surgeons and hand therapists are specially trained to care for children and babies with this condition. Our Arthrogryposis Clinic, part of the Hand and Upper Extremity Program, is the only dedicated clinic of its kind in Colorado as well as the region. Our team of specialists will develop an individualized treatment plan for each child.
The Arthrogryposis Clinic provides:
“The amounts of care, knowledge and expertise at Children’s Colorado – as well as the human quality interactions – have been amazing.” Jen, Leela's MomRead Leela's Story
Learn more about our Hand and Upper Extremity Program at Children’s Colorado.