Polydactyly

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Definition

Polydactyly is a condition in which a person has more than 5 fingers per hand or 5 toes per foot.

Alternative Names

Extra digits; Supernumerary digits

Considerations

Having extra fingers or toes (6 or more) can occur on its own. There may not be any other symptoms or disease present. Polydactyly may be passed down in families. This trait involves only 1 gene that can cause several variations.

African Americans, more than other ethnic groups, can inherit a 6th finger. In most cases, this is not caused by a genetic disease.

Polydactyly can also occur with some genetic diseases.

Extra digits may be poorly developed and attached by a small stalk. This most often occurs on the little finger side of the hand. Poorly formed digits are usually removed. Simply tying a tight string around the stalk can cause it to fall off in time if there are no bones in the digit.

In some cases, the extra digits may be well-formed and can even function.

Larger digits may need surgery to be removed.

Causes

Causes may include:

Home Care

You may need to take steps at home after surgery to remove an extra digit. These steps may include checking the area to make sure the area is healing and changing the dressing.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Most of the time, this condition is discovered at birth when the baby is still in the hospital.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

The health care provider will diagnose the condition based on a family history, medical history, and a physical exam.

Medical history questions may include:

  • Have any other family members been born with extra fingers or toes?
  • Is there a known family history of any of the disorders linked to polydactyly?
  • Are there any other symptoms or problems?

Tests used to diagnose the condition:

You may want to make a note of this condition in your personal medical record.

Extra digits may be discovered the first 3 months of pregnancy with ultrasound or a more advanced test called embryofetoscopy.

References

Carrigan RB. The upper limb. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 681.

Winell JJ, Davidson RS. The foot and toes. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 674.

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 11/19/2015
  • Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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