Genetics

Updated 19 February 2018

Baby born with record 34 fingers and toes

What would you do if your baby was born with polydactyly?

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When babies are born, they're meant to have 20 fingers and toes, but what do you do if your baby has more?

Polydactyly is the condition where humans and animals are born with one or more extra digits on their hands, feet or paws.

The record holder for the largest number of fingers and toes is a young Indian boy, Ackshat Saxena.

Saxena was born with 34 fingers and toes – seven fingers on each hand and 10 toes on each foot.

Healthcare professionals don't know the exact cause of this rare condition which, however, doesn't stop them from speculating about possible causes.

Why does this happen and when?

When a baby develops in the womb, their hands first develop like a paddle, with webbed fingers. Thereafter, at a certain stage during the pregnancy, the skin splits and forms fingers, according to the Boston Children's Hospital.

Polydactyly occurs when there is an anomaly in the process. The reasons for polydactyly are unknown, but it may be due to a genetic defect or underlying hereditary problems.

Trisomy 13 syndrome is a rare condition where part of chromosome 13 has is triplicated and not duplicated, according to the National Organisation for Rare Disorders. This is another possible cause of the condition, but it is considered extremely uncommon.

Polydactyly's three sub-categories for surgery:

Occasionally skin and soft tissue called "nubbins" form, which are easiest for surgeons to remove.

Skin with soft tissue and some bone without a joint is a little harder to remove from the hand.

The hardest is when there are skin, soft tissue, bone and a joint. This is when reconstructive surgery is required.  

Four sub-categories for digit location:

In certain instances, one may develop extra digits on either side of the hand or foot. These are titled pre-axial and post-axial.

Pre-axial polydactyly occurs when a digit or digits form adjacent to the thumb, and post-axial polydactyly occurs when a digit or digits form adjacent to the pinkie. There is a chance of one person experiencing both types, which is titled mixed-polydactyly.

Another type, which is far more unusual than pre-axial, post-axial and mixed, is central polydactyly. This is when extra digits form next to the pointer, middle and ring fingers.

World Record Holder

The Daily Mail reports that Saxena has since had several surgical procedures to remove the extra digits and, more specifically, to give him thumbs.

Runs in the family

In 2016, a Chinese mom gave birth to a baby who had 31 fingers and toes. Her baby boy, Hong Hong, had 15 fingers and 16 toes.

Huffington Post reported that his mom was looking for help to have her son's anomaly corrected, so he could lead as normal a life as possible. The family lives in a rural area in Hunan Province.

Hong Hong's mom was born with the condition as well, but she has not had the chance to have it corrected.

Abnormal? No, we're normal!

Another family who knows all about polydactyly is the Da Silva family from Brazil. The Mirror reports that that 14 members of this family were born with 12 fingers and toes.

The difference between this family and others who have the condition is that none of the Da Silvas have had their extra digits removed.

They believe that their extra digits give them a one-up on other people, and they believe they are better musicians and soccer players because of the anomaly.

One of the children, Joao de Assis Da Silva, told the Mirror that his favourite soccer position is goalkeeper because his hands are bigger and have better grip than those of "normal" people.

Image credit: iStock