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Inherited Disorders and Birth Defects

Webbed toes and fingers

10/09/2006

Question:

I have a brother that was born with deformed fingers/hands and feet. One foot is normal with five toes. The other foot has a missing big toe and an abnormal second toe. Both his hands are deformed / webbed. He was also born with a ring around his one arm on the top half. It looks like something was tied around it in the womb? I wonder if you could tell me what this condition is called and what is the different causes. He is now 21 years old.

I am his sister. I would like to know if this is inherited, as I would like to start a family of my own soon and am just wondering what the chances if any would be that my children would be the same? I do not have this same condition, neither has my parents or grandparents. What would the reasons / causes be for this. I must inform you as well that my mother was smoking and under stress during her pregnancy with my brother. Could that be a cause?

Answer:

I cannot diagnose the condition that your bother has, however, from your description he may have a birth defect known as amniotic constriction bands. Amniotic constriction bands are a result of damage to the amnion (part of the placenta) which may produce fibrous bands that can get wrapped around the developing limbs of the fetus. These bands compress the area of the limb, fingers, toes, etc which they are wrapped around and reduce blood supply to the developing limb. This causes the limb to develop abnormally.

Some signs of amniotic constriction bands include a permanent band or indentation around an arm, leg, finger, or toe and/or a congenital amputation of all or part of an arm or leg. There can be more serious defects, for example facial clefts if it happens very early in pregnancy when the face is developing.

Amniotic constriction bands are not thought to be inherited. Researchers and geneticists do not know the cause.

I would highly recommend that you talk to a geneticist or genetic counselor to discuss whether or not this is what your brother has. You can find a genetics center near you at the National Society of Genetic Counseling Resource website listed below.

Related Resources:

National Society of Genetic Counselors Resource Center

For more information:

Go to the Inherited Disorders and Birth Defects health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Anne   Matthews, RN, PhD Anne Matthews, RN, PhD
Associate Professor of Genetics
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University