The medical term for webbing of the fingers or toes is syndactyly.
Webbed fingers and toes occur when tissue connects two or more digits together.
In rare cases the fingers or toes may be connected by bone. Approximately 1
in every 2,000–3,000 babies is born with webbed fingers or toes, making
this a fairly common condition. Webbing of the fingers or toes is most
common in Caucasian males.
There are several different types of webbing that can occur
between the fingers and toes. They are:
The webbing appears only partially between the digits.
The skin is connected all the way up the digits.
- Simple: The
digits are connected by only soft tissue (i.e., skin).
- Complex: The
digits are joined together with soft and hard tissue, such as bone or
The digits are joined together with soft and hard tissue in an irregular
shape or configuration (i.e., missing bones).
causes webbed fingers and toes?
A child’s hand initially forms in the shape of a paddle
while developing in the womb. The hand begins to split and form fingers around
the sixth or seventh week of pregnancy. This process is not completed
successfully in the case of webbed fingers and toes, leading to digits that are
Webbing of the fingers and toes mostly occurs at random and
for no known reason. It’s less commonly the result of an inherited trait.
Webbing can also be related to genetic defects, such as Down syndrome and
Apert syndrome. Both syndromes are genetic disorders that can cause abnormal
growth of the bones in the hands and feet.
treatment is available?
Every case of webbed fingers and toes is different, but they
are always treated with surgery. Surgery is performed under general anesthesia,
which means your child will be given a combination of medications to put him or
her to sleep. Your child should feel no pain nor have any memory of the surgery.
This surgery is usually performed on children between the ages of 1 and 2. This
is when the risks of anesthesia are lower.
The webbing between the fingers or toes is split evenly in
the shape of a “Z” during surgery. Extra skin is sometimes needed to completely
cover the newly separated fingers or toes. In such cases, skin may be removed
from the groin to cover these areas. This procedure is called a skin graft.
Often only two digits are operated on at a time. Several surgeries may be
required for one set of digits depending on your child’s particular case.
Your child’s hand or foot will be in a cast after surgery.
The cast stays on for about three weeks before it’s removed and replaced with a
brace. A rubber spacer may also be used to help keep your child’s fingers or
toes separated while he or she sleeps. It’s also likely that your child will
undergo physical therapy after surgery to help with things like stiffness,
range of motion, and swelling.
Your child will need to have regular doctor’s appointments
to check the progress of their fingers and toes. During these checkups, your
child’s doctor will make sure that the incisions have healed properly. The
doctor will also decide whether your child will need additional surgeries.
Thankfully, most children are able to function normally after
surgery with their newly separated digits. Working with the healthcare
providers assigned to help your child is important. They will help you make
sure that your child achieves the best possible result.
However, it’s unlikely that surgery to correct webbing will
result in a hand or foot that looks completely normal. This may cause
self-esteem problems for your child. You might also find it hard to cope with
your child’s abnormality. In either case, your doctor may be able to recommend
local support groups whose members understand what you and your child are going