Congenital Hand Conditions

This information is useful for children
Why Yale Medicine?
  • A high level of specialty expertise and treatment options for congenital hand disorders that might be difficult to find elsewhere
  • Individualize surgical care for each patient to address personal concerns about function and appearance
  • Complex surgeries involving several procedures can be done at one time, minimizing a child's exposure to anesthesia and recovery time

A child uses his hands for everything from holding a cup to grasping a pencil. So life can be difficult for children born with congenital hand disorders, which range from the barely noticeable, such as fingers that don't function normally or are shorter than usual, to dramatic, such as a missing arm.

Felicity Fishman, MD, a highly specialized pediatric hand specialist and an assistant professor of orthopaedics at Yale School of Medicine, has extensive experience treating children with congenital hand conditions. She often collaborates with other Yale Medicine pediatric specialists to determine the best approach for each new patient. 

Congenital hand disorders may start early in pregnancy, when arms, followed by hands, and then fingers, develop. When this process is interrupted, or a genetic syndrome or environmental problem interferes with it, a congenital hand condition results. Sometimes problems with the hands or upper extremities develop after birth, as a result of a trauma or illness. 

Sometimes fingers and hands develop differently for no apparent reason. Among the most common of these birth defects are:

  • A hand or arm that doesn’t fully develop in pregnancy
  • Failure of parts of the hand to separate during pregnancy, resulting in hands and fingers or bones that are fused together
  • Extra or missing fingers
  • Fingers of unusual size, either larger or smaller
  • Constriction band syndrome, in which a band of tissue forms around part of the hand or finger and constricts blood flow, growth and movement