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Knowing all about Polydactyly

Updated on November 5, 2017

Polydactyly 101

Polydactyly comes from Ancient Greek meaning “many fingers”. Polydactyly is also known as hyperdactyly. This genetic disorder is distinguished by having extra toes and fingers. Polydactyly is a congenital disorder, meaning the fetus was damaged while still developing. The extra finger or toe is usually a small piece of soft tissue. It is a rare case that the extra limb is complete and works properly. In most polydactyly instances, the sixth finger is found on the far side of the hand, where the pinkie is. It is less likely to find the finger on the side of the hand where the thumb is. In very rare cases, the extra finger is located in the center with the index, the middle, and the ring finger.

When does Polydactyly occurs?

Polydactyly occurs through heredity and may result due to an underlying syndrome. In normal development procedure, the fetus’ hand first starts out in the form of a paddle. As the fetus develops more, the cells in the areas between the fingers are supposed to die off. The paddle, then, splits into four separate fingers and one thumb. Polydactyly results from an error in this step.

When the cells do not die off, some flesh stays conjoined to an already established finger. Then the excess flesh forms a fingertip. The frequency of polydactyly is 1 out of every 1,000 live births.

What is the life expectancy of some one who has Polydactyly?

People with Polydactyly live an average life span. There is no pain inflicted on a person with polydactyly itself. However, polydactyly of the foot may cause pain and complications when wearing shoes. Polydactyly of the foot can also lead to hallux varus. Hallux varus is the inward bending of the big toe joint. This may occur by having too many toes on the feet so the toes start to bend. The person may also have twisted bones, crooked joints, missing or extra tendons, nerves, and blood vessels.

Anne Boleyn

Legends state that Anne Boleyn, wife of Henry VIII, had polydactyly. Anne had eleven fingers total. It’s legend that Anne wore long sleeves to cover the deformity. She was caught having a sixth finger growing from her small finger. She was accused of being a witch for it and executed.

The types of polydactyly are: postaxial (little finger), preaxial (thumb), and central (ring, middle, index fingers) polydactyly.

Surgery is usually recommended solution

Surgery is the most recommended solution for polydactyly. Like with all surgeries, procedures can be complicated. There may be variations in the structure of the extra part. There may be twisted bones, crooked joints, missing or extra tendons, nerves, and blood vessels. With careful planning, the surgery specialist can predict and fix the problems.

The Sooner The Better

It is suggested that the procedure be done within a few years of the child’s life to ensure that the look, feel, and function of the corrected hand is most natural for the child.

What Comes After

After surgery, the patient wears large bandages to protect the hand. If the surgery is done while still a child, they may have to have multiple surgeries for adjustment due to growth. The surgeries after the first are not as invasive and usually have a smaller amount of “down time”. With most removals, the patient is left with a small scar where the extra finger or toe used to be.

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