Pollicization, or the creation of a thumb from an index finger, is one of my favorite surgeries. I like it so much because it allows me to accomplish my 2 primary goals for a child- making his or her hand function better and look better with a single operation. I have written several blog entries on the topic:
I believe that the pollicization surgery requires a skill set that the surgeon develops only over time. In other words, the surgeon must have a perfect understanding of the technical steps of the procedure (cut here, tighten there, etc.) but most also have a greater sense of how the new thumb should look and how to accomplish that goal. To me, that skill takes time to develop. While this is a whole other topic, the procedure is why I believe the mentorship model for education is so important for our field of congenital hand surgery. All surgeons have spent years to finish medical school, residency, and fellowship (for orthopaedic surgeons, that process is 10 years) but I think more time still is required for the very specialized area of congenital hand surgery. Undoubtedly, a surgeon who has completed his/ her training can recite the steps of the pollization procedure but, to me, more time is required and more experience is required before mastering the procedure.
I was fortunate to work with and learn from Paul Manske, one of the most accomplished congenital hand surgeons. I learned from Dr Manske during my residency training and then had the good fortune to work with him for 10 years after I was done with my training. I performed countless pollicizations with him and each time, I learned a little something. But it was during that time that I felt my skill and confidence with this operation (and others) grow.
Anyway, back to the point of this post: the long term outcome of the pollicization. These pictures demonstrate a very happy patient with a wonderful thumb, created 15 years ago by Dr Manske. There is not really anything else for me to say other than this is a good outcome and one that we desire for every patient. While not all pollicizations will look this good (there are many factors that affect the outcome), all, at least in my experience, improve both function and appearance of the hand.
|Long term Pollicization.|
|Long term Pollicization, resting position|
|Long term Pollicization, pinch position. Notice that there is nice tip to tip pinch.|
|Long term Pollicization from palm view.|