Syndactyly is condition wherein there is a congenital malformation of the limbs. It occurs in 1 in 2000 to 3000 live births. The term is derived from the Greek words syn, which means together, and dactyly, which stands for fingers.

It is a failure in which the fingers do not divide in to separate appendages. Separation of the digits normally occurs in the 6th and 8th week of embryologic development.

Syndactyly is a disorder where 2 or more digits are joined together.

Classifying Syndactyly

Simple syndactyly: the adjacent fingers or toes are fused by soft tissue.
Complex syndactyly: the bones of adjacent finger or toes get fused.
Complete syndactyly: the skin is fused all the way to the tip of the finger or the toe
Incomplete syndactyly: the skin is only joined for some the distance of the finger or toe

What Causes Syndactyly?

By and large, syndactyly is idiopathic, i.e. there is no known cause for it. However, in certain cases, there may be a defect in the genes and this could trigger syndactyly. Also, some research data suggests that smoking during pregnancy may result in syndactyly.

Symptoms of Syndactyly

Webbing of the fingers is apparent; your specialist will evaluate the degree of web involvement, he will also note down the length of the finger and the manifestation of the nails.

If the bones are fused as well, movement of the fingers will be hampered to some extent.

Occasionally, the tendons, nerves and blood vessels may get affected too, making the case complex.

Your specialist will also look for other abnormalities such as: delta phalanx, bony synostosis, or symphalangism.

How Is Syndactyly Treated?

Surgery for syndactyly should preferably be done in the first few years of life; this ensures that the appearance and the function of the hand are fairly normal.

The treatment regimen aims at separating the fused digits and more significantly, deals with adding skin to remedy the fact that there isnt sufficient amount of skin to wrap around 2 complete fingers.

Zigzag incisions are used to mange syndactyly; these incisions cross from side to side, across the digits. This makes sure that the scars will not hamper the growth of the finger in any way.

Advice from a hand therapist is an important aspect of the treatment plan. A hand therapist will assist you in handling the problems that occur prior to and after the surgery. A special silicone rubber spacer needs to be worn in between the fingers, whist sleeping; this helps maintain the new web space during the process of healing. In general, skin is taken from one body part as a skin graft, but infrequently, a skin flap may be used too.

After the procedure, a large bandage is kept on for weeks to months, depending up on the type of surgery carried out.

The outcome of a case of syndactyly is reasonably good. The principal goal of the surgery is to enhance the appearance of the hand and functionality and to forestall any progressive malformation / abnormality from occurring, as the child grows. Surgery is by and large, very successful in nine out of ten cases of syndactyly.