Polydactyly of the Foot Treatment & Management

Updated: Dec 20, 2018
  • Author: Cara Novick, MD; Chief Editor: Jeffrey D Thomson, MD  more...
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Treatment

Approach Considerations

Surgery is indicated to enhance cosmesis and to improve shoe fit. It is usually performed when the patient is aged approximately 1 year, so that the effect on development and walking is minimal. Generally, surgery should be delayed until skeletal development (ossification) has occurred within the affected rays so that accurate anatomic assessment is possible.

A retrospective comparative study of 24 foot polydactyly patients (30 feet), in which patients were divided into one group that was surgically treated before the age of 5 years (median age, 1 year; range, 9 months to 4.5 years) and a second group that was surgically treated after the age of 5 years (median age, 8.5 years; range, 6-37 years), found no significant differences between the two groups in terms of results at final follow-up (median follow-up, 16.2 years; range, 7-21 years). [22]

No absolute contraindications for surgical treatment exist. However, parents may choose not to excise the duplicate digit for personal reasons.

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Surgical Therapy

Surgical treatment consists of excision of the duplicated digit and reconstruction of any associated abnormalities in the remaining rays (eg, longitudinal epiphyseal bracket). [4, 11, 12, 13] A thorough preoperative examination should be undertaken, including evaluation of radiographs, to formulate an operative plan. Most patients have good-to-excellent results after surgery (see the images below). Careful surgery helps to ensure better cosmetic and functional outcomes.

Postoperative view of 1-year-old child who had pos Postoperative view of 1-year-old child who had postaxial polydactyly and excision of the sixth toe demonstrates a good result with straight lateral border.
Postoperative radiograph of a 1-year-old child wit Postoperative radiograph of a 1-year-old child with preaxial polydactyly who had significant varus of the duplicated toe demonstrates a good result after resection and metatarsal narrowing.
Postoperative radiograph of an 8-year-old boy with Postoperative radiograph of an 8-year-old boy with a history of bilateral preaxial polydactyly and excision of the duplicated digits at an outside institution. He required additional surgery because of residual deformity. A good result is depicted following combination of the first metatarsal base with the second metatarsal shaft, creating a 5-digit foot.
Radiograph depicting a patient who had a history o Radiograph depicting a patient who had a history of bilateral preaxial polydactyly and excision of bilateral duplicated digits at an outside institution. He required additional surgery at age 8 years. Good results were obtained following combination of the first metatarsal base with the second metatarsal shaft, creating a 5-digit foot. At 20-year follow-up, the patient is doing well.

Operative details

Most medial digits in preaxial polydactyly and most lateral digits in postaxial polydactyly are usually resected. This allows the foot to be narrow, with a straight medial or lateral border.

Postaxial polydactyly

In postaxial polydactyly, a racquet-shaped or oval incision is made at the base of the most lateral digit and carried through skin and fascia. Tendons are divided as distally as possible. The capsule of the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint is divided, and the digit is disarticulated. Care is taken to remove T or Y extensions of the metatarsal head or to reshape an expanded metatarsal head. The capsule is repaired, the skin closed, and a bandage or cast applied.

Park et al conducted a retrospective study to evaluate the operative treatment of postaxial polydactyly in 27 patients. [23] For excision of the medial toe, dorsal rectangular flap and full-thickness inguinal skin grafting were used; for excision of the lateral toe, a racket-shape incision was used. The investigators concluded that satisfactory functional and cosmetic results were obtained with dorsal rectangular flap and full-thickness inguinal skin grafting for medial toe excision and with the toe selection algorithm that was employed.

Preaxial polydactyly

In preaxial polydactyly, the medial toe is usually excised. The toe is again removed through disarticulation. Care must be taken to appropriately balance the abductor and adductor hallucis muscles and to minimize hallux varus. Correction of an associated longitudinal bracket epiphysis helps to prevent the development of hallux varus and an excessive short first metatarsal. The capsule is repaired as accurately as possible.

If the more lateral toe is hypoplastic and is excised, the intermetatarsal ligament must be reapproximated. A Kirschner wire (K-wire), left in place for 4-6 weeks, may be helpful in maintaining position and avoiding varus deformity. A soft dressing or cast may be used.

Central polydactyly

In central polydactyly, a dorsal racquet-shaped incision is made at the base of the duplication. The extra digit is excised through disarticulation. The intermetatarsal ligament is reapproximated before closure. A cast or orthosis may be useful postoperatively to minimize a residual widened forefoot. A careful plastic skin closure is used in all patients; cosmesis is a concern.

Osborn et al conducted a retrospective case series review of 22 patients (27 feet) who underwent surgical treatment of central polydactyly using the dorsal and plantar advancement flap technique. [24] Significant narrowing of the forefoot was achieved after surgery. This radiographic narrowing was maintained with growth after a mean follow-up of 8 years. However, persistent clinical widening of the forefoot after surgery was reported in the majority of cases (82%).

The researchers concluded that the dorsal and plantar advancement flap technique provides excellent radiographic and functional outcomes in the treatment of central polydactyly: It successfully narrows the forefoot on radiographs, and this narrowing is maintained with growth over time. [24] They advised that families be made aware that it is common for patients to experience persistent widening of the forefoot relative to normal, despite successful radiographic narrowing after surgery.

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Postoperative Care

A cast or soft dressing is used. If a K-wire is used, it is usually left in place for 4-6 weeks. A walking cast allows the small child to be active and at the same time protects the surgical incision.

The patient must be monitored and evaluated for residual or future deformity.

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Complications

The most common complication in preaxial polydactyly is hallux varus. This may cause pain and difficulty with shoe wearing, warranting subsequent surgical correction.

Failure to correct a longitudinal bracket epiphysis that may be associated with a duplicate great toe can result in the development of hallux varus. The deformity should be addressed when noted. The bracket can be resected to allow for untethered growth, and the varus can be corrected with capsulorrhaphy and K-wire fixation at the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint. Resection and metatarsal osteotomy may occasionally be needed in the older child. [25]

Patients with postaxial polydactyly may have residual angular deformity, including angulation at the MTP joint and bowing of the metatarsal. This is usually not clinically significant.

In patients with central polydactyly, a widened forefoot is a common complication.

All patients are at risk for developing MTP joint subluxation or angular deformity and residual deformities of the metatarsal head. Incomplete excision of elements that are not yet ossified may also lead to future problems or deformity.

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