Syndactyly is the
presence of webbed fingers or toes. It’s a condition that occurs when the
skin of two or more fingers or toes is fused together. In rare cases, your child’s
fingers or toes could be joined together by one or more of the following:
- blood vessels
This condition is present at birth. Syndactyly affects about
in every 2,500 to 3,000 babies. It most commonly occurs in Caucasian and
male babies. Webbing occurs most frequently between a child’s middle and ring
This condition can interfere with the normal function of
your child’s hand or foot. Unless the webbing is minimal, their doctor will
probably recommend surgery to correct the condition. Webbed toes may not
require treatment if the webbing doesn’t interfere with the function of your
Webbed fingers and toes can sometimes be detected before
your baby is born through an ultrasound exam. However, prenatal indications of
syndactyly may not be completely accurate.
Causes of Webbed Fingers and Toes
to 40 percent of syndactyly cases are caused by an inherited trait. Webbed
fingers and toes can occur as part of an underlying condition, such as Poland’s
syndrome, Holt-Oram syndrome, or Apert syndrome. In other cases, they occur on
their own for no apparent reason.
Repairing Webbed Fingers or Toes with Surgery
Surgical opinions differ about when it’s best for a child to
have syndactyly surgery. However, most experts agree that your child should be
at least a few months old before having this surgery. Choose a trusted surgeon
to perform the surgery and ask them about the ideal timeframe for your child. It’s
important for your child’s syndactyly to be treated before they begin to miss
developmental milestones that involve their fingers, such as grasping objects.
Your child will probably receive general anesthesia, so that
they’re asleep during the surgery. Then, a series of zigzag incisions will be
made to separate their fused fingers or toes. This procedure is called Z-plasty.
These incisions will split the excess webbing between your child’s fingers or
toes. Then, their surgeon will probably use pieces of healthy skin from another
part of your child’s body to cover the separated area. This is called a skin graft.
Separating your child’s webbed or fused fingers or toes will
allow each digit to move independently. This procedure is intended to restore
full functionality to your child’s hand or foot.
If your child has more than one area of webbing, their
surgeon may recommend multiple surgeries to minimize their risks.
Recovering from Surgery
After surgery to repair their webbed fingers or toes, your
child’s hand or foot will be placed in a cast for about three weeks. The cast
will help keep their hand or foot immobilized. It’s important that their cast
is kept dry and cool. It will need to be covered when you give your child a
When the cast is removed, your child may then wear a splint
for several more weeks. The splint will continue to protect the repaired area
during their recovery.
Your child’s surgeon may also recommend physical or
occupational therapy to improve their chances of full functionality in their
fingers or toes. Their doctor will also suggest a series of follow-up visits to
monitor your child’s healing.
What Are the Risks Associated with Surgery for Webbed Fingers or Toes?
It’s possible for your child to experience mild to moderate
effects of syndactyly repair surgery, but this is rare. Potential negative
effects of the surgery could include:
- extra skin growing back, which is called “web
creep” and must be repaired again
- hardening of scar tissue
- problems with the skin graft used in the surgery
- changes to the appearance of the affected
fingernail or toenail
- a lack of adequate blood supply to the finger or
toe, which is known as ischemia
See your doctor immediately if you notice any abnormalities
or color changes in your child’s fingers or toes.
What Is the Outlook for Surgical Repair of Webbed Fingers or Toes?
After surgical repair of finger or toe syndactyly, your
child will most likely experience normal finger or toe function. Their hand or
foot will also have an improved appearance. If your child experiences
complications, additional surgeries may be necessary to help them gain full
function of their fingers or toes. Additional surgeries to improve the
appearance of their hand or toes can also be arranged for a future date.
Your child’s hand or foot will continue to grow normally
after the surgery. Some children may require additional surgery when they reach
adolescence, after their hands and feet have fully matured and grown.