At OIC, our award-winning doctors and staff design tailored treatment approaches to help children with limb problems learn to overcome obstacles, develop strength and coordination and reach new goals. We want our patients to have the chance to live life to the fullest, just like their peers. And our expert team is ready to work toward that goal for every child who comes through our doors.
Congenital limb deficiency or deformity is when part of, or all of, the upper or lower limb fails to develop normally before a baby is born.
Limb deficiencies can be longitudinal and transverse.
Longitudinal deficiency is when a specific part of a limb—such as a bone in the arm or leg—is partially or completely missing. The most common type of upper-limb deficiency is called radial ray deficiency. It affects the radius, one of the bones that goes from the elbow to the wrist.
The most common type of lower-limb deficiency is called hypoplasia of the fibula. This occurs when the fibula—or calf bone—is smaller than normal.
A transverse deficiency is when a limb is completely missing after a certain point. It will appear as if part of the limb has been amputated. This deficiency is most often caused by amniotic band syndrome, also called Streeter’s dysplasia. Other cases may be caused by underlying conditions, like chromosomal abnormalities, or a rare disease called Adams-Oliver syndrome.
Sometimes, congenital limb deficiencies and deformities are inherited, or passed down, from parent to child. In some cases they can develop if babies are exposed to certain toxins—like drugs or alcohol—while they’re still growing in the womb.
But most of the time, these issues develop for no apparent reason.
Unlike other congenital health conditions, congenital limb deficiency and deformity don’t usually have noticeable symptoms, like pain. Instead, the main symptom of a congenital limb deficiency is the limb’s appearance. Children with a limb deficiency or deformity might struggle with:
Congenital limb deficiencies and deformities can sometimes be diagnosed during pregnancy. This can allow expectant parents to plan for treatment after a child is born. Prenatal tests that can detect issues like this include:
While some limb disorders are obvious before or right at birth, there are times where a deformity can’t be diagnosed until well after a child is born. In these cases, the deficiency or deformity becomes visible or noticeable over a period of time. If this happens, X-rays are taken to identify which bones have formed abnormally.
OIC provides the best care for children with congenital limb disorders, including these common types:
Polydactyly is a deformity in which the hand has one or more extra fingers or toes on the hands or feet and occurs while a baby is developing in the womb.
Symbrachydactyly is a rare congenital hand defect in which the fingers are abnormally short, missing and webbed or conjoined. In this condition, the bones, muscles, ligaments, and nerves of the hand are usually affected.
Syndactyly is a fairly common congenital defect where the fingers or toes are webbed or joined and is present at birth.
Bowed legs are legs that curve outward at the knee. This creates a space between the knees when the feet are together and a child faces forward while standing. The bowing may be in one leg or in both, and is especially noticeable when a child runs.
Knock knees, also known as genu valgum, are an angular deformity of the legs that causes the knees to touch each other, while the ankles are spread apart.
Leg length discrepancy is when a child has one leg that is shorter than the other leg. This difference can range from very small and unnoticeable to several inches.
Toe deformities occur when the toe bones are misaligned. If left untreated, some toe deformities can negatively impact your child’s quality of life and cause problems with other weight-bearing joints such as the knees and hips.
OIC’s goal for treatment is to maximize the limb’s function so that your child can live as normally as possible. Sometimes, that means no treatment is needed at all. For instance, a missing small toe or a short pinky finger may not noticeably impact your child’s day-to-day functioning, so treatment might not be necessary.
But if treatment is needed, developing the right plan depends on the type and severity of your child’s deficiency or deformity. The most common types of treatment include:
It takes a team of specialists to ensure a child’s congenital limb disorder is treated for the best possible outcome, giving them the opportunity to live a full, active life. Our team of experts is led by the following specialist:
Based on your child’s condition your team could include:
From bringing the right paperwork to driving directions, find out what you need to know for your visit.