Polydactyly in Children

March 16, 2023
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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Polydactyly in children is one of the most common forms of hand and feet abnormalities. It is normal for parents to have questions and concerns about this condition. For most children, the long-term outlook is positive, and it is usually possible to recover and develop full hand function.

This helpful overview will give you a clear picture of polydactyly in children, including the causes and treatment options so that you can make the best care decision for your family and little one.

What is Polydactyly?

Polydactyly is a condition where one or more extra fingers grow on the hand, or extra toes on their feet. The extra digits develop while babies grow in the womb and are usually identified during prenatal checkups or birth. It is estimated that one in every 700 to 1,000 babies is born with some form of this condition.

Types of polydactyly include post-axial, where the extra finger is on the little finger side of the hand, and pre-axial, on the thumb side. Central polydactyly, where the extra finger is in the middle of the hand, is very rare.

Polydactyly Causes

When the hands and feet develop in the womb, it starts as a single appendage and slowly divides into fingers or toes accordingly. Polydactyly occurs when this process continues for longer than usual and divides into one or more extra fingers.

Polydactyly can be caused by an inherited trait or as part of a related condition or disease such as Carpenter syndrome, asphyxiating thoracic dystrophy, Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome, or trisomy 13.

Polydactyly Risk Factors

The most significant risk factors are family history of the condition and ethnicity. African American children are more likely to have polydactyly, particularly on the outside of the hand. There is some evidence pointing to specific environmental and economic factors as potential contributors.

Polydactyly Symptoms

The most prominent symptom of polydactyly is the presence of an extra digit on the hand or foot, which is usually identified by sight at birth or during prenatal ultrasound.

In most cases, the extra finger or toe will be abnormally small and may or may not have a bone. In rarer cases, the finger will be fully formed and functional.

Diagnosing Polydactyly

Doctors or health care providers may be able to see the extra digit developing in the womb during a routine prenatal ultrasound or by sight at birth. X-rays or other imagery may be ordered to better look at the underlying structure.

To determine the cause of polydactyly in children, particularly if a disease or syndrome is present, doctors may also order additional testing such as bloodwork.

When to See a Doctor

Treatment of Polydactyly depends on the complexity and location of the deformity. Polydactyly is usually identified and treated immediately shortly after birth. A doctor may only need to be consulted if there are complications related to treatment or if new symptoms develop.

Treating Polydactyly

The most common treatment for polydactyly is a procedure to remove the extra digit if it is not functional. This procedure will usually be performed between the age of one and two when children are young enough for it not to affect development but old enough to tolerate anesthesia and recovery better.

In the most straightforward cases, the extra finger or toes can be tied off or clipped where it joins the hand. It will then shrivel and fall off in the following weeks, much like the umbilical cord at birth.

In more complex situations with bone development, one or more surgical procedures may be needed to remove the digit and repair the hand or foot if necessary.

Caring for a Child with Polydactyly

After polydactyly treatment, children will usually be bandaged or have a cast on the hand while it heals. Follow-up visits will be recommended to monitor healing and hand function. Many patients undergo occupational and physical therapy to treat scarring and stiffness and help with dexterity.

Families with more complex care needs related to a medical syndrome or busy schedules may benefit from pediatric home health care services. A home health professional can provide care and attention for children with a wide range of needs, including administering medication, helping with feeding, assisting with home therapy exercises, and accompanying children to appointments.

Contact Care Options for Kids for Home Health Care in Florida

It can be hard to balance your time between work, home, and caring for a child. That’s why our team of skilled professionals at Care Options for Kids is here to help. We have been enforcing precautionary measures and following the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for COVID-19 to ensure the safety and health of our clients and employees.

Our home health care services offer one-on-one support in the comfort of your home. We refer loving and competent nurses to provide customized care for families — from a few hours a day to around-the-clock supervision. Contact us directly to speak with a home health care professional or request a free in-home assessment. Together we can determine the best plan of action to keep your loved ones happy and healthy.

If you or a loved one are considering Pediatric Home Health Care Services in Florida, contact the caring staff at Care Options for Kids. Call today at (888) 592-5855.