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Inherited Disorders and Birth Defects

Syndactyly

08/10/2007

Question:

My husband has webbing in his feet. His father had it as well. What are the chances of us having a child with webbing? Could there be webbing of the hands as well even tho there is no history of that in his family. Could they have a worse case of it, and is there anything that I could do to reduce the chances of our child having this?

Answer:

Syndactyly or webbing of the fingers and / or toes is a very common finding. Syndactyly of the toes is about 4 times more common than syndactyly of the fingers. Syndactyly can be sporadic - that is, it happened just in one child in a family, is not inherited from either parent and geneticists do not know why it happened. It can also run in families – where a parent has a gene that codes for syndactyly and can pass that gene on to any of his or her children. Finally, syndactyly can also be seen in many genetic disorders, but these children have multiple problems, not just syndactyly.

In your case, it sounds like your husband’s family has a gene that codes for syndactyly and is probably inherited in what is called autosomal dominant inheritance. For all of our genes – there are 2 copies of each. Autosomal dominant inheritance describes a trait or disorder in someone who has a gene mutation (or change) in one of the two copies for that specific gene. That gene mutation specifically refers to a gene on one of the 22 pairs of autosomes (non-sex chromosomes).

Autosomal dominant traits can be seen in both males and females equally. Usually, when someone has this gene mutation for a trait, such as syndactyly, you see it in multiple generations.

In your case, your husband most likely has a gene for syndactyly, which he inherited from his father. Anyone with an autosomal dominant inherited trait or disorder has a 50-50 chance of passing that gene on to any child that person has. So any child you and your husband have will have a 50-50 chance of inheriting the gene for syndactyly and be affected. If a child inherits the gene, it could be more mild or severe than your husband’s syndactyly; however, there is no way to predict how severe it might be and no way to prevent it from happening. You could consider having an ultrasound during pregnancy to look for syndactyly if it is a concern for you.

If you and your husband have not already done so, I would recommend you talk to a genetic counselor or geneticist to discuss these concerns. You can locate a genetics center near you at the National Society of Genetic Counselor’s Resource Center at the website 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