Congenital differences refer to problems that a baby is born with. In the hands, this can result in a couple of different fairly common problems, which can range from very minor to major, requiring surgical correction. When a baby is being formed in the mothers womb, thousands upon thousands of different things happen to form each part of its body. In the case of the arms, when the woman is about four to eight weeks pregnant, the fetus will develop an arm bud, or the beginnings of the arm itself. Over time, signals will be sent to the cells to form the arm. If any step is missed or confused, then a congenital hand problem could develop. Sometimes these are genetic, but often there is no diagnosable cause for the issue.
Types of Congenital Hand Problems
There are a few different types of congenital hand problems that could develop and appear in a newborn. These can include:
- Webbed Fingers
- Fused Fingers
- Missing Parts of the Hand or Arm
- Extra Fingers or Other Parts
- Fetal Band Syndrome
We will go over most of those momentarily. Fetal band syndrome occurs when a band of tissue stretches from the placenta and wraps around a part of the baby. In some cases, this will mean wrapping around the hand, wrist or arm, cutting off circulation. This often results in amputation of all or part of the hand or arm.
Common Congenital Hand Problems
About one out of every 20 children will have a difference of some type. Some of them are so minor that very little has to be done. However, in many cases, correction will be needed to ensure the hand looks and functions normally. Common problems include:
- Webbed or fused fingers (called syndactyly). The fingers can be separated through surgical procedures.
- An extra pinky finger (called post axial polydactyly). Again, this can be corrected with surgery.
- An extra thumb (called thumb polydactyly)
If the congenital problem is an issue, then it will likely need to be treated through surgical means.
Surgery to Correct Problems
When a congenital hand problem has been identified, then a surgeon will discuss options with you. In most cases, any problem can be corrected with surgery. Webbed or fused fingers can be separated. Extra fingers can be removed and the other finger, which may have been effected, can be surgically reconstructed.
The only time when surgery would not be considered is if it would severely compromise use of the childs hand. This is something that will be evaluated by a hand surgeon and discussed with you.
You can find out more about these surgeries by visiting the American Society for Surgery of the Hand at www.assh.org. Congenital hand problems do not have to be a lifelong issue. Instead, through corrective surgery, the hand can be restored to normal, often providing better functionality. If you have any reason to believe that your child has a congenital hand problem, then it is best to make an appointment with a hand specialist.