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What Is Syndactyly?

Syndactyly (sin-DAK-tuh-lee) is when a baby is born with two or more fingers or toes joined or "webbed" together.

What Happens in Syndactyly?

Syndactyly can be:

  • Simple: The fingers or toes  are joined by skin, but the bones are separate.


  • Complex: The bones and other parts of the fingers or toes are joined. The joined part can go from the base to the tip of the finger or toe or just part of the way up.

A baby can have syndactyly in one or both hands or feet.

What Causes Syndactyly?

Syndactyly develops before a baby is born. It is not caused by anything a mother did or didn't do while pregnant. When a baby's hands and feet are first forming, they're shaped like mittens. Then the digits (the fingers and toes) divide.

In babies with syndactyly, the fingers or toes do not divide completely.

Any baby can be born with syndactyly. Syndactyly may run in families. Most babies who have it don't have other health problems. But sometimes, syndactyly happens as part of a genetic syndrome .

How Is Syndactyly Diagnosed?

Syndactyly may be seen before birth on an ultrasound. Otherwise, doctors diagnose it when the baby is born.

Doctors do X-rays to see if the bones are joined. This helps surgeons decide what kind of treatment is needed.

How Is Syndactyly Treated?

Most babies with syndactyly of the hand benefit from surgery to separate the fingers. Surgery will help them use their fingers better. The surgery is usually done by the time a child is 1 to 2 years old.

Occupational therapy (OT) and home exercises can help a child's recovery after surgery. Many babies with syndactyly of the toes do not need surgery. They'll be able to walk and run well.

What Else Should I Know?

With treatment, children with syndactyly can do all of the usual things that kids do. If your child has syndactyly, offer support as your child learns how to use their hands or feet well.

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date Reviewed: Sep 1, 2023

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