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What Is Clinodactyly?

People with clinodactyly may need to have their phalanges bone operated on.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 07 July 2014
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Clinodactyly is a congenital condition that may affect about one in 100 people. It is failure for a bone in the smallest finger to develop properly. This creates a scenario where the little finger or pinkie points and bends toward the ring finger. The degree to which this affects function varies in each case, and some people might have this slight malformation without ever requiring correction.

As previously stated, clinodactyly is congenital, meaning it is present at birth. It may occur when certain other congenital conditions are present. For instance, people with Down syndrome have a far greater likelihood of having clinodactyly. It also seems to occur more often in males than females. It should be noted that having the condition doesn’t necessarily mean having Down syndrome, but its presence is usually an indication that a baby should be thoroughly analyzed for the syndrome and for other diseases with which this condition might present.

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It isn’t always possible to tell how severe a case of clinodactyly will be at onset. This is because changes to the bones as a child grows may make the condition worse. Sometimes at onset, there is such severe bending inward that surgery to create better function may be recommended immediately. Other times, doctors take a watch and wait approach, and would only recommend surgery if it appeared necessary at a later point. Unfortunately, in childhood, a single surgery is no guarantee that the problem is corrected. Since kids keep growing it might be necessary to perform multiple surgeries. On the other hand, some people do not have any surgical correction for this condition.

Surgery for clinodactyly may take several forms and could be performed by hand surgeons or frequently by plastic surgeons. The phalanges bone in the finger, which is usually misshapen or incorrectly oriented is all or partially removed in order to stop the curving. After surgery, a cast or special protection is worn over the hand until full healing has occurred. Frequently, children have this condition to the same degree in both hands, called bilateral clinodactyly. This would mean having both hands out of use for a while after a surgery, though sometimes doctors prefer to do one hand at a time so that a patient is not greatly inconvenienced.

This defect in the hand is commonly thought of as a mild one, and there are many other defects that may be more obvious and extensive. Yet this does not mean that evidence of clinodactyly should be ignored. If a parent sees signs of inward bend of the pinkie finger, this should at least be cause for a check-up or observation.

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