Using Digit Pollicization To Correct Genetic Disorders

Bobby Chhabra pic
Bobby Chhabra
Image: med.virginia.edu

Dr. Bobby Chhabra has served as an orthopedic surgeon, specializing in surgery of the hand, for almost two decades. The division head of the Hand and Upper Extremity Surgery Department of the University of Virginia (UVA) Health System, Dr. Bobby Chhabra is also a former director of the UVA Hand Center.

At the UVA Hand Center, Dr. Chhabra led the team that created thumbs for a little boy named Connor Woodle, who was born without them due to a genetic anomaly. After an initial meeting with the parents when Connor was only two weeks old, the UVA Hand Center team decided to undertake a digit pollicization procedure: they would move the child’s forefingers, rotating them into the thumb positions, reattaching all muscles and tendons, and enabling the fingers to take part in the “pinching” role essential for carrying out many day-to-day tasks.

Digit pollicization is ideally carried out when the patient is between one and two years of age, so the brain has ample opportunity to correctly learn the use of the “new” finger. The UVA Hand Center team completed Connor’s surgeries – one on each hand – within this time frame, with the second surgery taking place about seven months after the first. The successful procedure enabled the young patient full use of his hands.

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