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When your child is born with a condition like polydactyly – the existence of more than five fingers or toes on a single hand or foot – a great relationship with your care provider can help you feel secure in the choice of treatment you make for your child.

Polydactyly is often genetic, and may appear in a few different ways: a raised bump of soft tissue containing no bones; a partially formed finger or toe with bones but without a joint; a fully-functioning finger or toe.

Polydactyly may be detected during the first trimester of pregnancy, or may not be identified until birth. In either case, recommended treatment will depend on which type of polydactyly is diagnosed.

Finger Duplication

Treatment recommendations often depend upon which digit is duplicated:

  • Small finger duplication
    • Extra fingers without bones may be removed before a child's first birthday by cutting off the blood supply to the digit, allowing the excess soft tissue to fall away naturally.
    • For more fully-formed or functional fingers, surgical removal of the digit is often necessary.
  • Thumb duplication
    • Options to remove an extra thumb vary, depending on the factors like the position of the additional thumb.
    • Because removal of an extra thumb is often more complicated, surgery is likely required.

Toe Duplication

Facts about toe polydactyly:

  • Polydactyly of the toes is much more common than the fingers, with 1.7 children per 1,000 births born with polydactyly of the toes compared to 0.3 per 1,000.
  • Toe polydactyly is more common in boys than girls, and most common in African American children.
  • In most cases, the "ideal age" to remove an extra toe is around 1 year. At this age, the foot is large enough to make the removal more simple, and the child is not yet aware of the extra digit.
While many times a surgical option is chosen for cosmetic reasons, other times surgery can increase functionality of the hand or foot.
David Westberry, M.D., Shriners Children's Greenville

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