Syndactyly (Webbed Fingers)
What Is Syndactyly?
Syndactyly is a common condition in which a child's fingers or toes do not fully separate during development, causing “webbed” spaces. The spaces between two or more fingers or toes may be webbed. Sometimes it is only the skin that is joined, but in other cases the fingers can also share tendons, nerves, blood vessels and bone.
What Causes Syndactyly?
During the early weeks of pregnancy, the child's fingers and toes form in a “mitten” of skin. By the end of the second month of pregnancy, the extra skin dissolves, and the fingers and toes should separate. Syndactyly occurs when the fingers and toes do not fully separate during development.
Some forms of syndactyly are inherited, while others are sporadic, meaning the condition can occur even if it doesn't run in the family. Most cases of syndactyly are isolated and occur in an otherwise healthy child.
How Is Syndactyly Treated?
Your child's physician will help you determine the appropriate treatment option. Some forms of mild syndactyly may not need treatment. If a reconstructive operation is necessary, web spaces are created carefully to minimize scarring. A small piece of skin from another area of the body, called a skin graft, will be needed to help cover the space between the fingers after they are separated.
Surgery is typically performed after a child is 2 years old, when growth of the hand has slowed. About 50 percent of children who have a reconstructive operation will need a “touch-up” operation in their teen years when the hand reaches its full size.
After surgery, the child will wear a protective cast to allow the hand to rest and heal. It is important to keep the cast clean, dry and cool. Follow-up visits will be scheduled to monitor the healing and function of the child's hand.