What Is Syndactyly?
Webbed skin between fingers or toes is a common feature of syndactyly.
Having fingers or toes that are joined is called syndactyly (sin-DAK-til-ee). In most cases, the digits are joined side-by-side only by skin or other soft tissue, which may look webbed. The fingernails or toenails may also be joined.
Sometimes the digits are joined at the bone. There may be other problems with the phalanges (fah-LAN-jeez) in the joined digits, such as extra, missing or misshaped phalanges. The digits may share connections between their muscles, tendons, nerves and blood vessels, too.
Two, three, four or all five digits on a hand or foot may be joined. The joined section may go only partway from the base of the fingers or toes to the tip (partial or incomplete syndactyly) or all the way from the base to the tip (complete syndactyly).
Syndactyly in Children
This is a fairly common condition. It happens in about 1 in 2,000 to 1 in 3,000 babies. It’s passed down in some families (inherited). Often it happens to only one person in a family because of changes in their genes.
About half of babies born with syndactyly have it on only one hand or foot. About half have it on both hands or feet.
When a baby’s hands and feet begin to form, they are shaped like mittens or paddles. Then the fingers and toes divide. In most babies with syndactyly, the fingers or toes did not divide all the way. In babies with amniotic band syndrome, the fingers or toes may have divided and then joined again as they healed after injury (acrosyndactyly).
Fingers or toes may be joined all the way from the base to the tip or only partway up.
Many babies with syndactyly have no other differences in their bodies and no health problems. But this condition can happen along with other hand or foot conditions, such as polydactyly (then it’s called polysyndactyly) or with other genetic conditions or other syndromes, such as Apert syndrome.
Syndactyly at Seattle Children’s
Our doctors, surgeons and occupational therapists are well versed in treating syndactyly. Each year we see many babies with this condition in our clinics, and we create a tailored treatment plan for each of them to get the best results.
Syndactyly is one of the most common congenital conditions treated by the experts in our Hand and Upper Extremity Program.
For many of our patients, treatment means surgery – sometimes highly complex surgery – to divide digits. Our surgeons are experienced at performing this type of surgery in children.
When needed, our rehabilitation program provides occupational therapy to help children with syndactyly gain the best possible use of their hands or feet.