Health Library

Health Library Explorer
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A-Z Listings

Congenital Limb Difference in Children

What is a congenital limb difference in children?

A congenital limb difference is when an arm or leg doesn’t form normally as a baby grows in the uterus. The baby is born with the difference.

What causes a congenital limb difference in a child?

The exact cause of this type of difference is often unknown.

Which children are at risk for a congenital limb difference?

Some things may increase the chances of this health problem. These include:

  • Conditions that affect the baby in the uterus as it grows. These include genetic abnormalities, growth restriction, and mechanical forces.

  • Exposure by the birth parent to chemicals or viruses while pregnant

  • Some types of medicines

  • Exposure to tobacco smoke

What are the symptoms of a congenital limb difference in a child?

A child with a congenital limb difference has an arm or leg that hasn’t formed normally. The most common of these differences are:

  • No limb at all

  • Part of the limb doesn’t separate, often seen in fingers or toes

  • Duplication, often seen as extra fingers or toes

  • The limb is much larger than the normal limb (overgrowth)

  • The limb is much smaller than the normal limb (undergrowth)

How is a congenital limb difference diagnosed in a child?

The diagnosis of a congenital limb difference is made at birth. It may be linked to other bone conditions or syndromes. Always talk with your child’s healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is a congenital limb difference treated in a child?

Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how bad the condition is.

The overall goal for treatment is to give your child a limb that works and looks right. Treatment goals can vary for each child. They may include:

  • Helping your child grow and develop

  • Helping your child feel a sense of independence

  • Encouraging self-care

  • Improving how the limb looks

There is no standard treatment for a congenital limb difference. Treatment choices may include:

  • Artificial limbs (prosthetics)

  • Splints or braces (orthotics)

  • Surgery

  • Rehabilitation, such as physical or occupational therapy

Key points about a congenital limb difference in children

  • A congenital limb difference is when an arm or leg doesn’t form normally as a baby grows in the uterus.

  • The exact cause of a congenital limb difference is often not known.

  • Certain things may increase the chances of a child being born with such a difference. These include gene problems or exposure to some viruses or chemicals.

  • Treatment depends on the type of congenital limb difference. It may include an artificial limb, surgery, or rehab.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:

  • Know the reason for the visit and what you want to happen.

  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.

  • At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.

  • Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed and how it will help your child. Also know what the side effects are.

  • Ask if your child’s condition can be treated in other ways.

  • Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.

  • Know what to expect if your child does not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.

  • If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.

  • Know how you can contact your child’s healthcare provider after office hours, and on weekends and holidays. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.

Online Medical Reviewer: Rahul Banerjee MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Turley Jr PA-C
Online Medical Reviewer: Stacey Wojcik MBA BSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2023
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
Contact Our Health Professionals
Follow Us