Syndactyly (Webbed Fingers)

What is syndactyly?

Syndactyly—also known as webbed fingers or toes—is a common condition in which a child’s fingers or toes do not separate fully during fetal development. The spaces between two or more fingers may be webbed, and may be connected all the way to the fingertips (complete syndactyly) or only part of the way up the fingers (incomplete syndactyly). Sometimes, the fingers are joined by skin only (simple syndactyly), and sometimes they can also share bones, tendons, and blood vessels (complex syndactyly). The space between the middle and ring fingers is the most common location for syndactyly.

In early pregnancy, the baby’s hand first forms in the shape of a paddle and later splits into fingers. Syndactyly happens when the fingers don’t separate fully during this process. Some cases of syndactyly are genetic, and others happen alongside other hand conditions, such as polydactyly (extra fingers).

How is syndactyly diagnosed?

Your child’s doctor can diagnose syndactyly after hearing about your child’s medical history and doing a physical exam. X-rays are often helpful in confirming the diagnosis and showing the doctors if any other bones in the hands or fingers are involved.

How is syndactyly treated?

Mild forms of syndactyly may not need treatment, and other types of syndactyly may require surgery to separate the two fingers. A small piece of skin from another part of your child’s body, called a skin graft, will help cover the space between the newly separated fingers. Alternatively, your pediatric hand surgeon may choose to use a synthetic skin graft. Depending on the severity of the webbing, surgery is usually done when the child is around 2 years old.

After surgery, your child will need to wear a cast for several weeks to protect the area. Occupational therapy can also help ensure that your child regains normal hand function. We will continue to monitor patients for several years after surgery to make sure that everything is going well.