Key Points about Congenital Hand Defects

  • When a baby is born with a hand difference or deformity, it is called a congenital hand defect.
  • While a genetic issue causes some congenital hand defects, other congenital hand defects have no known cause.
  • Congenital hand defect types include:
    • Failure of formation, which means the body part stopped growing while the baby was in the womb. Radial club hands and ulnar club hands are examples of the failure of formation congenital hand defects.
    • Failure of separation, which means parts of the hands are fused or webbed. Simple syndactyly involves the fusion of finger tissues only. Complex syndactyly is a congenital hand defect that occurs when there is a fusion of bones. A contracture is another type of failure of separation, which means that a person cannot fully extend his or her fingers.
    • Duplication, also called polydactyly, means that the hand includes extra parts, most often the pinky finger.
    • Constriction Band Syndrome is a congenital hand defect that causes over or undergrowth of parts of the hand. Constriction Band Syndrome occurs when a band of tissue restricts blood flow and growth of the arm or hand.
  • Treatment of congenital hand defects is dependant upon the type of defect, the age of the patient, the cause of the congenital hand defect, and other factors. An orthopedic hand specialist can determine the best form of treatment for a congenital hand defect.
  • Treatment can include surgery, therapy, prosthetics, and splinting, among other options

Overview

Congenital hand defects are deformities or hand differences that are present when a baby is born. Some congenital hand defects have a genetic cause. For other congenital hand defects, there is no known cause.

There are various types of congenital hand defects, including:

  • Failure of formation
  • Failure of separation
  • Duplication
  • Constriction Band Syndrome

Treatment of congenital hand defects depends on the type of congenital hand deformity. An orthopedic hand specialist can help determine the best course of treatment for congenital hand defects. 

 

Congenital hand defect causes

Causes of congenital hand defects vary, but they are generally divided into three categories:

  • Some babies’ hands stop developing or develop differently in the womb.
  • Some medications or infections can change the development process.
  • Congenital hand defects can sometimes be part of a syndrome that affects many parts of the body.

Some congenital hand defects have no known cause.

Congenital hand defect symptoms

Congenital hand defects are typically visible and can include deformities.

Other symptoms include:

  • Stiffness
  • Inability to grasp objects
  • Inability to bend and/or flex

Congenital hand defects diagnosis

Your doctor can diagnose congenital hand defects. Congenital hand defects are often diagnosed by ultrasound before the baby is born. Otherwise, most congenital hand defects are diagnosed during an examination of the baby immediately after birth. 

Congenital hand defects treatment

Treatment of congenital hand defects is dependent on the type of congenital hand deformity. An orthopedic hand specialist can help determine the treatment plan for a congenital hand defect. Treatment can include:

  • Physical therapy to build strength and improve function
  • Splinting
  • Contracture correction
  • Limb stretching
  • Prosthetics
  • Surgery, including tendon transfers and skin grafts

When to Seek Care

It is important to schedule an appointment with a hand surgeon as early as possible to avoid complications or permanent damage. Call your doctor to schedule an appointment.

Next Steps

Your doctor will develop a treatment plan customized to your case. Carefully follow your doctor’s treatment instructions.

If your symptoms worsen during treatment, call your doctor right away to discuss the next steps.