Appearance of congenital hand anomalies

Scand J Surg. 2021 Sep;110(3):434-440. doi: 10.1177/1457496920903987. Epub 2020 Feb 28.


Background and objective: Impact of appearance of congenital hand anomalies has not previously been reported. The purpose of this study was to describe the common perception about how different congenitally malformed hands look.

Methods: We developed a questionnaire in a game format to evaluate the appearance of different hands. Altogether 1450 (954 females) 4- to 84-year-old residents (296 children) of two European and one Asian (n = 102) country were asked to rate the appearance of different looking hands on a five-point pictorial Likert-type scale. Standardized photographs of the dorsal aspect of 17 different congenitally malformed non-operated hands and a normal hand were presented to respondents. Significance of age, gender, nationality, and profession of the respondents was assessed.

Results: The respondents' ranking order of the hands was nearly consistent. The normal hand (mean = 4.43, standard deviation = 0.85, Md = 5) and clinodactyly (mean = 4.37, standard deviation = 0.86, Md = 5) were perceived to have the best appearance. Symbrachydactyly (mean = 1.42, standard deviation = 0.68, Md = 1) and radial club hand (mean = 1.40, standard deviation = 0.68, Md = 1) received the lowest scores. Adults rated the appearance of hands higher than children regarding 14 hands, females higher than men regarding 15 hands, and Europeans higher than Asians in 4 hands (p < 0.05, respectively). Europeans rated four-finger hand (mean = 3.21, standard deviation = 1.18, Md = 3) better looking than six-finger hand (mean = 2.92, standard deviation = 1.18, Md = 3, p < 0.005), whereas Asians gave higher scores to six-finger hand (mean = 2.66, standard deviation = 1.26, Md = 3) compared to four-finger hand (mean = 2.51, standard deviation = 1.14, Md = 2). Medical doctors and nurses gave higher scores compared to the other profession groups, school children, and high school students in five hands (p < 0.05).

Conclusions: A normal hand is perceived distinctly better looking than most congenitally different hands. Different malformations' appearance was ranked very coherently in the same order despite of participants' age, gender, nationality, or profession. Asians seem to prefer an additional digit to a four-finger hand.

Keywords: Upper extremity deformities; child; congenital; disability evaluation; esthetics; hand.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Hand Deformities, Congenital* / diagnosis
  • Hand*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult