Webbed Finger Conditions In Children: Questions And Answers About Surgical Reconstruction

Webbed fingers and toes, a condition known as syndactly, can be frightening to see on your new baby, but it's no reason to panic. The condition is fairly common, especially among Caucasian male infants. Reconstructive surgery is necessary to remedy the condition, and it's usually performed before your child is two years old. Understanding the basics of the procedure can help set your mind at ease.

Question #1: Will the Procedure Be Painful?

The reconstruction procedure is carried out under general anesthesia, so your child will not feel any pain during surgery. There will likely be some discomfort afterward as the incision and possible graft sites heal.

Question #2: What Is the Standard Process?

Standard reconstruction procedures vary depending on the extent of the webbing. Generally, the skin that joins the fingers or toes together is cut apart and then reformed around each individual digit. In some cases, a child does not have enough skin in the webbing to fully encase the digit. In this case, a skin graft may be taken from the groin to make up for the lack of skin. In rare cases, there may be bones connecting the digits, which may require more in-depth surgery to correct.

Question #3: Does Surgery Provide for a Full Range of Motion?

Most children that undergo surgery to corrected webbed digits regain a full range of useful motion, but they may need some physical therapy in later years depending on the severity of their case. Followup appointments with your pediatrician and the surgeon are vital so they can monitor your child's progress and make therapy recommendations when needed.

Question #4: How Should the Child Be Prepared for Surgery?

Your surgeon will schedule a standard pre-surgery checkup, including blood tests, about one week before the surgery. Your child also cannot eat any solid foods after midnight the evening before surgery, but young children are allowed water, breast milk, or formula up until six hours before surgery. All fluids, including water, are generally disallowed beginning three hours before surgery.

Question #5: What Is the Standard Recovery Period?

Expect your child to remain in the hospital for one or two days after surgery, although recovery time may be longer depending on the specifics of your child's repair. Your child will be given pain medication to help keep them comfortable, along with antibiotics to stave off infection. There will be some bruising and discomfort for a few days following most standard procedures. Your child may also need to wear a cast or may have skin graft sites that will require dressing changes for several days.

Digits reconstructed from webbing disorders do not always look "normal." Your child may be a candidate for further reconstruction for purely cosmetic reasons when they are older, depending on the extent of the abnormalities. Generally, reconstructive surgery is safe and there are few risks from the surgery itself, beyond the standard risks of any procedure that is performed under general anesthesia.

For more information, contact John Gatti MD or a similar medical professional.