An Overview of Clinodactyly

Causes, diagnosis, and treatment

In This Article

Clinodactyly is the clinical term for an abnormally bent or curved finger, usually caused by abnormal development of the small bones of that finger. It could also stem from the growth plate of the hand having an atypical shape, or the bones might be growing in an atypical direction. Diagnosis involves imaging tests and treatment, in severe cases, may call for surgery.

Clinodactyly diagnosis
Illustration by Cindy Chung, Verywell

Prevalence

It’s hard to say just how many individuals have the condition because it’s hard to precisely say what is “normal” or “atypical” with different levels of curving of the fingers.

According to Boston Children’s Hospital, this condition affects approximately 10 percent of the general population, in differing levels of severity.

Signs and Symptoms

The affected finger might be bent oddly in the middle of the finger or overlap other fingers, and is most commonly the pinky finger, although the fourth finger can also be affected.

Generally speaking, the abnormality doesn’t cause pain or inflammation, although it may cause discomfort when using the affected hand. If the curve is more than 30 degrees, it can affect hand function.

If the clinodactyly is minor, you might opt for no treatment at the present time, but if it’s more severe, there are various treatments available if you choose that option.

Causes

Clinodactyly can be an inherited condition in some cases, but it can also be part of a larger presentation like Down syndrome. In the Down syndrome population, it affects one in four individuals. It is also commonly seen in Klinefelter syndrome and Turner syndrome.

Diagnosis

Because the severity of clinodactyly can vary so widely, if your child has any abnormal curvature of the finger, it’s best to have it examined by a doctor for an official diagnosis, if need be.

There is often a physical examination of the affected hand to see the degree to which the finger is curved and how it affects function. The doctor may recommend imaging tests like X-rays to better see the bones of the finger and hand. Range-of-motion tests may also be done to see just how the curvature affects functioning and how to best help your child.

Treatment

Sometimes treatment isn’t immediately indicated for clinodactyly, especially if the finger is only slightly curved or there are no functional difficulties. Doctors may recommend watchful waiting or ongoing observation of the hand and finger to make sure things don’t get worse. If the curvature of your child’s finger is more than 30 degrees, treatment may be strongly recommended.

Treatment is typically most effective when the child is very young because the bones haven’t fully matured yet.

When putting together a treatment plan for your child, the doctor will take into account your child’s age, the severity of the curvature, and whether your child will be able to tolerate the recovery from surgery.

Surgery

If surgery is deemed necessary, a portion of the curved part of the bone is removed in order to straighten the finger. Tendons and soft tissue may be released or operated on in order to release tension on the finger and joint and ensure future stability.

The finger is then held together with pins or screws to ensure the bones are straight. The finger is stabilized, making sure all bones and tissues are properly aligned and in place. The doctor will also look at the rest of the fingers and hand, making sure the affected finger looks natural.

Once everything is stabilized, the finger is immobilized in a cast or splint. Your child will have several post-op follow-up appointments and recovery will proceed accordingly depending on how severe the curvature was and the extent of surgery. The timeline for returning to daily activities can vary, and is something to ask your doctor.

Once all of the bandages or casts are removed, the doctor might suggest working with an occupational or physical therapist who specializes in hand mobility to help your child regain full range of motion or learn to adapt to a new range of mobility or functioning.

Ask your child’s doctor whether this is necessary, and what recovery and function will look like for your child.

A Word From Verywell

Overall, the outlook for a child with clinodactyly is good. With proper treatment, the finger can be straightened and range of mobility can be restored.

If your child has clinodactyly, talk with their doctor about your options and whether surgery is appropriate at this time. Each child is different and the severity of the condition can vary widely, which means treatment and recovery can vary widely as well.

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Article Sources

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  • Boston Children’s Hospital. Clinodactyly. 2018.

     

  • Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Clinodactyly. 2018.