What We Treat

Our Limb Deficiency Program provides comprehensive care for children, teens and young adults who have crooked, uneven, or missing limbs. Whether the limb difference is congenital (present at birth) or acquired (the result of disease, an accident or other trauma), it’s important to get the right care as early as possible. Limb differences include:

Limb Deformity

A limb deformity is a problem with an arm or leg that makes it crooked. This may include:

Some types of deformities do not need treatment and get better over time. Others may need surgery.

Post-Traumatic Limb Deformity

A post-traumatic limb deformity is a limb that becomes crooked after a bone is broken. In some cases, the bone may heal in a crooked position, which is called a "fracture malunion." Other times, the fracture may heal straight, but the bone’s growth plate is partially damaged. This causes the bone to heal crooked or grow to a different length than the opposite limb. 

In children, fracture malunions are often not a problem if the crookedness is not causing any pain or the child can still use the limb normally. This usually happens if the fracture is close to the growth plate but does not affect the growth plate. 

In some children, a crooked bone will not improve its alignment as it grows, and it becomes painful or causes functional problems. If this is the case, your child’s doctor can talk to you about options that are available to straighten the bone.

Limb Deficiency

A limb deficiency is when a child is missing part or all of a leg, arm, hand or foot. Limb deficiencies can be congenital (present at birth) or acquired (the result of disease, an accident or other trauma). Limb deficiency conditions include:

Limb deficiencies can affect the whole limb, or just part of the limb. One of the more common limb deficiencies is fibula hemimelia. In this condition, the small bone on the outside of the leg (fibula) is smaller than normal, or the bone is absent altogether. This may cause the lower leg to be shorter than the opposite limb. It can also result in missing toes. About half of all children born with a fibula hemimelia will also have a short thigh bone (femur).

The cause for most limb deficiencies is unknown. Some deficiencies happen because of exposure to certain drugs while the baby is in the womb. Other deficiencies may be inherited, although this is rare.

Limb Length Discrepancy

Limb length discrepancy means there are differences in limb lengths. These differences can be caused by limb deficiency problems or complications from broken bone growth plates.

Services We Offer

Prognosis and treatment for a limb deficiency or deformity depends on which limb is smaller and the size difference. No matter how big or small the limb deficiency or deformity may be, the goal is always to maximize function.

We offer services for children who require various treatments:

  • Rehabilitation: The rehabilitation team at Children’s is trained and experienced in working with children who are undergoing limb-lengthening, limb-salvaging procedures or prosthetic training.
  • Prosthetics design: Our orthotics and prosthetics team provides some of the most advanced technology available in designing and fitting prostheses, including myoelectric and conventional prostheses for upper and lower extremities.
  • Silicone restoration: Provides patients who have a partial or complete loss of an extremity—hands, feet, fingers or toes—with a unique and realistic replacement prosthesis. The silicone can be sculpted and painted to match each patient’s size and skin tone, including details like wrinkles, veins and freckles. Silicone skins can be made to go over prostheses, including below-knee or above-knee leg prostheses. As the child grows, the silicone prostheses can be resized for a consistent appearance.
  • Intelligent hand: For patients with full or partial loss of a hand, we offer intelligent hand prostheses. With this technology, teens and young adults can learn to grasp and move objects with fingers that can move independently of each other.
  • Adaptive Sports Program: Our team partners with sports medicine and rehabilitation to help children and teens find sports they enjoy and can play safely. We can design and assist with the technology needed for adaptive sports.

Our Unique Approach

When your child is missing all or part of an arm, leg, hand or foot—from birth or as the result of trauma—it affects your entire family. All of our team members are trained and experienced in working with children with limb deficiencies and deformities and their families. We work closely with patients to make sure they have the training and support needed to be independent and confident, now and into the future.

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