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Polydactyly

Polydactyly is a condition in which a person has more than five fingers per hand or five 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 one 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.

Common Causes

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 doctor 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

Hosalkar HS, Spiegel DA, Davidson RS. Toe deformities. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 666.10.

Updated: 12/4/2013

Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


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