Sunday, April 7, 2019

Symbrachydactyly- The typical form defined

I have posted a few times on symbrachydactyly and those posts can be found HERE.  In addition, there are several reasonable summaries at other sites including this free ARTICLE from a friend and colleague, Michelle James.  Many hospital sites also offer a brief summary of the diagnosis.  In my practice, it is not common that patients come to the office with a diagnosis of symbrachydactyly.  In fact, that almost never happens.  Most patients are labeled as having amniotic band or constriction band syndrome incorrectly.

While there are a few classifications of symbrachydactyly, this one, to me, summarizes the different forms best:
  1. short finger
  2. cleft type (thumb and small finger present)
  3. peromelic (nubbins)
  4. monodactyly (only the thumb present)
  5. wrist bones present (but nothing more distal)
  6. wrist bones absent (ie, arm ends at the end of the forearm)
  7. transforearm (amputation at mid forearm level)

For this discussion, I would like to focus on the short finger type of symbrachydactyly (Type 1).  That is, patients with a thumb and four fingers but with shorter digits than expected (brachydactyly meaning short finger)  The size of the digits can vary dramatically and can include a failure of some of the bones to form or shorter bones than expected.  These patients also have webbing between the fingers (thus the name symbrachydactyly rather than just brachydactyly).

These two images help to show a relatively mild form of symbrachydactyly with short digits and a surgically corrected webbing between the fingers.

Symbrachydactyly after deepening of the spaces between the fingers.


Symbrachydactyly x-rays showing short middle phalanges

These x-rays demonstrate short middle phalanges which account for the overall short digits.  See the red arrow on the middle phalanx.  The metacarpals (in the hand) are normal, the proximal phalanges are normal, and the distal phalanges are normal or near normal.  But the middle phalanges are short, as expected, in this mild form of symbrachydactyly- thus making the overall finger length less than expected.  While the digits are short, function is typically excellent and surgery to address the length is not recommended.  The only surgery for patients with this type of symbrachydactyly is what has been provided for this patient- a correct of the syndactyly or webbing.

Charles A. Goldfarb, MD
My Bio at Washington University
congenitalhand@wudosis.wustl.edu

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Saturday, March 30, 2019

Sprengel Deformity Outcome


Sprengel deformity is the presence of a high- riding shoulder blade (scapula).  I have previously blogged about it HERE (although it has been awhile).  Sprengel deformity is uncommon although the exact incidence is unclear.  It can be associated with a number of conditions including Klippel Feil (cervical spine vertebrae fusions), scoliosis, and other less common conditions (although all of these are very rare).  We believe it occurs during early development.  All of us start with the shoulder blades resting high in the neck and then, during fetal development, the shoulder blades migrate/ travel down to their final position in the upper back.  There may be abnormal tissue or even bony connection between the shoulder blade and the spine (it is unclear if this is cause or effect). 


Patients with a Sprengel deformity present with a bulge in the posterior neck- the shoulder blade.  They typically have limited shoulder motion including the ability to bring the arm from their side and in front of them.  Specifically, both motions may be limited to prevent the hand and arm from reaching high above the patient.  There is rarely pain.  The motion limitation is determined by the severity of the Sprengel deformity. 




Sprengel Deformity on the patient's right side.  
Sprengel Deformity on the patient's right side. 

Treatment
While therapy can be utilized to work on motion in Sprengel deformity, most patients with motion limitations and the notable neck bulge are treated with surgery.  The goal of surgery is to bring the shoulder blade down from the neck, back into its position in the upper back.  Because the shoulder blade is always smaller than the ‘normal’ one, the sides are never exactly symmetrical.  The surgery we utilize is the Modified Woodward procedure although there are several similar surgeries which can be effective.  We prefer a younger age for surgery but will typically treat patients aged 3-8 years or so.  The reason we prefer operating on younger children is because we feel that motion will improve more compared to treatment in older kids.

Finally, while the goal of surgery is to improve motion, a secondary benefit (an important one) is the improvement in appearance.  Sprengel deformity does cause a real ‘bulge’ in the neck which is quite noticeable.  Surgery definitely improves this although, as noted above, the shoulder blades typically appear asymmetrical due to the fact the affected one is smaller than the ‘normal’ one (although this is only visible without a shirt).  One important consideration in surgery is for the surgeon to avoid the temptation to bring the shoulder blades ‘level’.  This can increase the risk of a nerve stretch injury.

The patient below is after surgery for Sprengel deformity and the size difference in her shoulder blades is clear.   However, her motion is much improved, as is the appearance of her neck.  Unfortunately, the improvement in her neck bulge is hidden by her hair.


Patient with Sprengel Deformity on her right, after surgery



Patient with Sprengel Deformity on her right, after surgery



Charles A. Goldfarb, MD
My Bio at Washington University
congenitalhand@wudosis.wustl.edu

Please CLICK HERE to support our research.  
Designate my name.  Thank you!


Sunday, March 10, 2019

Research Matters

The Paul R. Manske Award for Best Congenital Manuscript is named for my late partner who had such an important impact on the field.  This Award recognizes the most impactful paper related to kids born with hand or arm differences, anomalies, etc.  I am happy to say that our paper was selected for this award by the Pediatric Hand Study Group at the recent annual meeting in Denver:

Bae DS, Canizares MS, Miller PE, Waters PM, Goldfarb CA.  Functional Impact of Congenital Hand Differences: Early Results from the Congenital Upper Limb Differences (CoULD) Registry.  J Hand Surgery, 2018; 43(4):321-330

The paper, Abstract Here, shared the findings from our CoULD Registry regarding function in kids with these birth differences.  Simply put, we found that that these children did have lower upper extremity function scores but had better peer relationships and positive emotional states compared to the normal population.  Really quite amazing findings which are similar to at least one previous report by Ann Nachemson in 2011 which showed positive psychological well being in a smaller but similar group.  I previously blogged about this paper HERE.

This paper is the result of a great deal of hard work from the CoULD Group.  The idea is that we follow children with birth differences or anomalies over time to better understand the effect of time and treatment.  We follow the results of surgery, type of surgery, challenges with surgery, etc but also kids treated with therapy or simple observation.  This group was founded by Don Bae and I to address one of the great challenges in understanding of kids with birth differences- the lack of studies with a sufficient numbers of kids.  So, we began enrolling kids in 2014 and we have added 5 additional sites with a number of other sites set to join.  So far, we have enrolled more than 2,400 children with the 5 most common diagnoses being radial polydactyly, ulnar polydactyly, syndactyly, radioulnar synostosis, and symbrachydactyly.  Most of the 2,400 were malformations of the upper limb or hand plate.  There are now a number of research projects in the works and we are excited to see how these studies will change our understanding of birth anomalies and their effect on children!

Charles A. Goldfarb, MD
My Bio at Washington University
congenitalhand@wudosis.wustl.edu

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Finger Deformity- What happens late?


Clinodactyly, bent finger, may present at birth, in childhood, or with the rapid growth of adolescence.  If the bent finger is mild, it will not limit function and often may be treated with stretching or simply observed.  However, a more notable bent position becomes a functional issue with large object grasp and with simple things like typing.  Treatment begins with therapy including active and passive motion and splinting to decrease the deformity.  And therapy is often very helpful.  However, in some patients, therapy does not provide the desired correction.  Pain in childhood is rare.  However, with more severe camptodactyly, pain can develop over time and, occasionally, arthritis can develop as well.

If the finger position is causing problems, again, this would almost always be functional limitations but could include pain in the older child or adult, surgical intervention is considered.  However, the issue with surgery is that it doesn't always provide the improvement that we desire.  And, it can carry the risk of stiffness.  This bears more discussion.  With camptodactyly, patients can make a full fist- they just cannot completely straighten the finger. Flexion/ making a fist is a crucial function.  If surgery stiffens the finger and full flexion is lost, function can be worse.  While not the point of this post, to minimize the risk (we can't eliminate it) of a loss of flexion, we limit the immobilization after surgery, limit the use of pins, and start early therapy. 

So, with younger patients with camptodactyly, we attempt to remove the block to extension.  And we work hard to maintain full motion.  I have blogged about this previously HERE.  However, an older patient with longstanding camptodactyly may need a different approach.   If the joint degenerates and if arthritis develops, a surgical fusion of the joint in the best functional position makes sense.  This limits motion but puts the finger in the best possible position and removes pain.  And, this raises another controversy- the role of camptodactyly in the development of joint arthritis.  Some believe that the flexed joint position and limited motion increases the risk of joint arthritis.  They also, therefore, recommend early surgery to decrease this risk.  This is not necessarily my approach as I feel this is a decision for the family to make with my role in providing additional information.

Here is a patient without previous treatment and with long standing camptodactyly.  The markedly flexed position of the finger was limiting his function and there was pain.  To address both issues, we fused his joint (no further motion at the middle joint but normal motion at other joints) in a better position of function.  The surgery was successful in removing pain and helping function.  Again, this is a rare option for camptodactyly.

Limited finger extension with camptodactyly.  Long standing problem which has interfered with function.


Long standing camptodactyly with major joint changes and joint arthritis.  This is RARE.


Finger fusion in an adult for treatment of long standing camptodactyly with pain.  Note the improved position of the finger compared to prior to surgery.

Late, painful camptodactyly is rare, thankfully.  This rare case does illustrate important points including the possible development of an arthritis joint and the need for surgery.

We recently wrote a review article for the Journal of Hand Surgery on camptodactyly, focusing on treatment options in kids.  See the highlights in Recent Article


Charles A. Goldfarb, MD
My Bio at Washington University
congenitalhand@wudosis.wustl.edu


Sunday, February 3, 2019

Madelungs Deformity Surgical Technique

I have posted a few times on Madelung Deformity, as may be seen HERE.  While there have been a number of surgical techniques recommended over the years, I believe that the dome osteotomy of the distal radius is the best option.  That procedure was described well in this important MANUSCRIPT.

Below is a brief surgical technique video on the dome osteotomy for Madelung Deformity.   While this is not a truly graphic video (no notable blood loss), it does provide a look inside the forearm and shows how this procedure is performed with drills, wires, and chisels (osteotomes).  What I mean to say is that everyone may not want to watch this!

I use this surgery for Madelung Deformity when patients have pain in the central wrist or radial wrist (thumb size).  That is typically in younger patients (example, 12 year old female) and may be part of a surgery which includes excision of Vickers ligament and physiolysis.  However, in older patients with pain on the pinky side of the wrist (the ulnar side), this may not be the best option- instead, an ulnar shortening osteotomy might be the ideal surgery.




Thanks to Andrew Yee for his expertise in creating this video!


Charles A. Goldfarb, MD
My Bio at Washington University
Email me: congenitalhand@wudosis.wustl.edu

Friday, January 18, 2019

A New Thumb: Early Pollicization Outcome

Pollicization is one of my favorite surgeries for kids born with hand differences.  This child is several months out from the pollicization procedure.  He is using the new thumb as demonstrated in this video and the family (and the surgeon:)) are all very pleased with the appearance of the hand and thumb.  While kids begin use of the new thumb at different time intervals after surgery, this child has incorporated the pollicization rapidly and with great function!





Charles A. Goldfarb, MD
My Bio at Washington University
Email me: congenitalhand@wudosis.wustl.edu

Madelungs Deformity- not always a problem

Madelungs Deformity is a common condition in my practice although uncommon in general.  I have previously blogged about it a few times- you can read those posts HERE.  In general, I see patients in my office with Madelungs who have symptoms including pain with activities, limited motion, and wrist deformity.  Most commonly, we see patients in their early teenage years.  Every patient is somewhat different in these complaints and, therefore, a careful conversation with patient and family is vital.  Madelungs Deformity is also genetic and associated with the SHOX gene.  An excellent (somewhat technical) discussion can be found at this NIH site.  Because of the genetics, it can run in families, typically passed from mother to daughter.  It can also be associated with Leri Weill Dyschondrosteosis (a mouthful) which includes Madelungs, short stature and short forearms and thighs.    In those patients with a family condition (ie genetics), we sometimes see patients before there is deformity and before there may even be clear Madelungs on x-ray.  We try to give every family the best advice but these discussions can be tricky as every teenager and adult has different symptoms and so, we can' t predict what will happen.  What I mean is that some patients have notable Madelungs Deformity but no or minimal pain while others are limited by their deformity.  This variability makes it tough for patients and families when we discuss surgical options that have the chance to minimize or prevent the development of the Madelungs Deformity.

Here are my thoughts.
1) Most patient have disease on both sides.  When I treated one side, almost every single patient comes back for surgery on the other side which, to me, implies satisfaction with surgery.
2) The surgery for established Madelungs Deformity cuts and repositions the bone and attempts to re- establish growth plate lengthening.  The surgery for those with early or mild Madelungs (or even those patients predicted to develop Madelungs because of the genetics) is different.  In these cases, we try to release a tether that may contribute or cause the development of Madelungs.
3) Surgery for older patients (adults) is typically related to pain on the ulnar side of the wrist (the pinky side) and for those patients, we shorten the over- long ulna.  This surgery has good success.

Below is an excellent example of one patient with Madelungs Deformity without pain or significant limitations.  She does have mild decreased wrist and forearm motion but is able to participate in all activities as desired.  She presented to my office only after a routine wrist x-ray detected the abnormality and she was referred.  Our discussion included all of the above.  She has notable deformity but only on one side.  Surgery can certainly help the deformity and, I believe, will help decrease the chance of future problems.  But, this is a tough family decision because she does not have current symptoms.  The family understand the issue and will consider how they would like to proceed.

Madelungs Deformity, only side affected.  It is likely associated with a syndrome including short stature and short forearms.

Madelungs Deformity on the left side only.  Not the deformity on the left and the straight wrist on the right.


Madelungs Deformity on the left side only.  Not the deformity on the left and the straight wrist on the right.

X-rays of typical Madelungs Deformity

Charles A. Goldfarb, MD
My Bio at Washington University
Email me: congenitalhand@wudosis.wustl.edu