Syndactyly in the Pediatric Population: A Review of the Literature

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Journal Article

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congenital; deformities; hand; pediatrics; syndactyly


Syndactyly is one of the most common congenital upper extremity deformities. Syndactyly can be described as either simple, involving just the skin and soft tissue, or complex, involving the phalanges. Additionally, syndactyly can be categorized as complete, involving the entire digit (including the nail fold), or incomplete, which does not involve the nail fold. Multiple familial or spontaneous genetic abnormalities can cause syndactyly, and these mutations typically involve the canonical wingless-type (WNT) pathway. Surgical repair of syndactyly is typically done between six to 18 months of age, depending on the type of syndactyly. Regardless of the classification of the syndactyly, the repair is performed before school-going age (except in the case of extremely mild or rare, extremely complex syndactyly). One or more imaging modalities are used to aid the surgeon in deciding the surgical approach for the syndactyly repair. The surgical plan must be clearly communicated with parents to manage expectations of aesthetics and function of the digits post-surgery. In brief, a syndactyly release surgery involves the creation of the web space using a geometrical design of the surgeon's choice, defatting of finger flaps, separation of the digits, and closure with absorbable sutures. However, the approach may vary depending on the patient. A "best" approach for rectifying the difference in surface area of separated versus fused digits has not yet been determined. While this was typically done using a skin graft, the use of alternative methods (most notably, using a synthetic dermal substitute or not using a graft at all and allowing the skin to heal with secondary intention) has been on the rise given the undesirable side effects of a graft. Less commonly, an external fixator can be used to expand soft tissue and skin. In the case of complete syndactyly, the Buck-Gramcko technique is most commonly used for nail flap reconstruction. Complications of the surgery include contracture, web creep, and the need for a second surgery. Thus, parents must be counseled in recognizing signs of complications.


Orthopaedic Surgery