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Clin Orthop Surg. 2012 Mar;4(1):58-65. doi: 10.4055/cios.2012.4.1.58. Epub 2012 Feb 20.

Classification and surgical treatment of symphalangism in interphalangeal joints of the hand.

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Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.



Symphalangism is a rare congenital difference characterized by ankylosis of interphalangeal (IP) joints of the fingers and toes. In adults, there were several attempts to restore the stiff joints into mobile ones, but these treatment options resulted in poor outcomes and could not be applied to growing children. Here, we report our experiences on surgical treatment for children who had symphalangism of the hand.


We treated 36 joints in 17 children with symphalangism of the hand using dorsal capsulotomy and collateral ligament release. The diagnoses were based on history, physical examination, and simple radiographs. Affected fingers were classified according to our grading system. Simple compressive dressing was applied using Coban after surgery. Passive range of motion (ROM) exercise was started on day one or 2 postoperative, with the help of a hand therapist and patients' parents. The patients were prescribed passive ROM exercises for at least 2 hours a day over a period of 6 months.


A single surgeon operated on 30 proximal IP joints, 3 distal IP joints, and 3 IP joints of the thumb. Twenty six joints were classified as grade I, and 10 as grade II. The ROM of affected joints, which was 7.8 ± 8.1 (mean ± SD) degrees preoperatively, increased to 46.8 ± 18.6 degrees at final follow-up. The final ROM was significantly better in grade I joints, especially when the children had operations at ages 24 months or younger.


Symphalangism of the hand in children, can be restored into a mobile joint by release of the collateral ligament, a dorsal capsulotomy, and postoperative physical therapy.


Children; Surgical treatment; Symphalangism

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