Children's Hospital Colorado


What is symbrachydactyly?

Symbrachydactyly refers to a hand that did not develop normally. Signs and symptoms might include:

  • The hand or the fingers might be short because the bones are short.
  • The fingers might be webbed or attached to one another, known as syndactyly. The fingers might be stiffer.
  • The bones in the hand or fingers might be missing completely.
  • The thumb may be small or missing completely, known as thumb hypoplasia/aplasia.
  • There might be nubbins (small stumps of skin and tissue) instead of fingers.
  • The condition usually only affects one hand.
  • It might be associated with radial dysplasia.

The hand and wrist have many bones, including:

  • Phalanges (finger and thumb bones)
    Each finger has three bones.
    Each thumb has two bones.
  • Metacarpals (main bones in the palm of the hand)
  • Carpals (wrist bones)

What causes symbrachydactyly?

Symbrachydactyly occurs when the bones of the hand do not grow normally when the baby is growing in the mother's uterus. Doctors do not know why this occurs, however:

  • It might be part of a syndrome (group of symptoms).
  • It might be a genetic condition (passed down in families).

How is symbrachydactyly diagnosed?

Symbrachydactyly can sometimes be seen during pregnancy via an ultrasound when the baby is in the mother's uterus. It is usually diagnosed by a physical examination after birth, and the provider will often order X-rays to look at the bones of the arm.

The provider will most likely order other tests to see if this is part of a syndrome and might suggest seeing genetics for further testing and counseling.

How is symbrachydactyly treated?

Treatment depends on the severity of the condition. The treatment often includes therapy with an occupational or physical therapist and may include stretching, play and activities, and helping your child with activities of daily living. Children born with this condition usually do a very good job of learning to use their hand.

Treatment depends on the child's overall health and whether surgery can improve the position, movement and function in the arm, wrist and hand.

About symbrachydactyly surgery

  • Surgery may involve bones, tendons, ligaments, muscles, joints and/or nerves.
  • The surgery will be done in the operating room under general anesthesia (the child is put to sleep).
  • If your child is sick any time during the week before surgery, it is important to call the Hand Program to find out if the surgery should be rescheduled. The Hand nurse is available Monday through Friday for any questions you might have before the surgery.
  • Cuts are made in the area to do the surgery.
  • All cuts are closed with stitches.

Why choose Children's Hospital Colorado for treatment of your child's symbrachydactyly?

Our Hand and Upper Extremity Program provides a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to the care of your child. This means you have access to leading specialists from multiple departments who work together to treat your child.