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Syndactyly is considered one of the most common congenital hand defects, occurring in about 1 out of every 2,500 babies. During normal development of the embryo, the hand initially forms in the shape of a paddle, and then eventually splits into separate fingers. Syndactyly occurs when one or more fingers fail to separate during this time. The fusion between the fingers can involve skin and soft tissue only or can be more complex involving underlying bone as well.
X-rays are commonly used to confirm the diagnosis and identify any underlying involvement of the bones of the fingers and hand.
An operation is required to surgically separate your child’s joined fingers. These procedures are typically performed when your child is aged between 12 and 18 months. Only one side of a finger is separated at a time in order to avoid complications related to blood supply of the affected finger. Therefore if your child has multiple fingers that are joined, more than one surgical procedure will be needed.
After surgery, your child’s hand is usually placed in a bulky padded bandage for two weeks to help immobilise and protect it. Once the bandage is removed, a moulded lightweight splint is sometimes required to support the separated fingers for a few additional weeks. During this time, we will organise for your child to see a specialist physiotherapist to improve their hand and finger movement and function. We will also want to see your child for follow-up visits to ensure that healing has gone well and function has returned.