Syndactyly – Fingers That Fail to Separate in the Womb


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Dr. Bobby Chhabra is a longtime hand surgeon who holds responsibilities with the University of Virginia Health System as endowed chair of orthopedic surgery. Dr. Bobby Chhabra has a particular professional interest in congenital hand deformities, which present themselves in infants from birth and range from thumb duplication to syndactyly.

Also known as webbed fingers, syndactyly involves two or more fingers not separating while the baby is developing in the womb. Typically an issue of the ring and middle fingers, the condition is characterized as a complete syndactyly when the fingers are totally fused. In other cases, the fingers may be characterized as incomplete syndactyly, as they are only partially fused.

Another type of the condition known as complex syndactyly extends the digit fusion to more fingers. This relatively rare condition is most common in Caucasian children and is twice as prevalent in boys as girls. Webbed fingers may also be an attribute of symbrachydactyly, which involves hand underdevelopment and includes missing or small fingers.


Three Tendon Injuries Athletes Commonly Experience in Their Hands

Bobby Chhabra pic
Bobby Chhabra

An experienced physician and educator, Dr. Bobby Chhabra is a professor and department chair of orthopedic surgery at the University of Virginia. Dr. Bobby Chhabra holds an additional role as team physician for the university’s athletic teams, and he has concentrated much of his research and practice on surgical treatments for injuries in the wrist and hand.

Athletes of all sports share the risk of bodily harm when competing. When it comes to injuries related to the wrist and hand, some are more common than others. Consider the following three.

1. Tendonitis in the wrist

Individuals who participate in sports like basketball or volleyball can experience extensor carpal ulnaris tendonitis, or ECU tendonitis. This condition results from concentrated motions and extreme pressure on the wrist, such as in shooting or spiking a ball. With ECU, the tendonitis manifests in the tendon or tendons at the back of the wrist.

2. Jersey finger

Another tendon injury experienced by athletes is jersey finger, so named because it occurs when a player pulls the jersey of an opponent. The movement and pressure involved tear the flexor tendons in the finger, and extensive damage can result in a fracture.

3. Baseball finger

Repeatedly catching or otherwise absorbing the force of a fast-moving ball can damage the extensor tendon and deform the finger. This deformation challenges the ability of the finger to straighten with ease. Baseball players, as the name suggests, frequently deal with this injury.

UVA Health System’s Hand and Upper Extremity Fellowship Program


University of Virginia pic
University of Virginia

A graduate of Johns Hopkins University with a bachelor of arts in biology, Dr. Bobby Chhabra went on to earn an MD from the University of Virginia School of Medicine. Today, Dr. Bobby Chhabra serves as a professor and chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at University of Virginia Health Systems, where he also helps train aspiring surgeons as a faculty member in the Hand and Upper Extremity Fellowship program.

The University of Virginia Health System’s Hand and Upper Extremity Fellowship program prepares participants for careers providing compassionate, fiscally responsible care to patients with traumatic and acquired conditions of the shoulder, arm, wrist, and hand. Fellows learn to treat such conditions as peripheral nerve disorders and sports injuries and to perform microsurgery, brachial plexus surgery, arthroscopy, congenital hand surgery, and joint replacement.

In addition to working with the department’s four faculty members, fellows collaborate with members of the plastic surgery faculty and the neurosurgery faculty. Aside from obtaining surgical expertise, fellows gain valuable experience with research investigations, including clinical outcomes and reviews.

Common Hand and Wrist Injuries in Athletes

Bobby Chhabra pic
Bobby Chhabra

Bobby Chhabra, MD, is an orthopedic surgeon and the current chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery with the University of Virginia Health System. A faculty member and professor at the university since 2002, Dr. Bobby Chhabra has taught many courses during his tenure, including Basis of Athletic Training: “Hand and Wrist Injuries in Athletes.”

Athletes put a great deal of stress on their bodies. The chance of receiving a hand or wrist injury is high for athletes who use their hands specifically for their sport – such as baseball and tennis players – as well as those who participate in contact sports such as football. The following are examples of common sports injuries to the hand and wrist.

Wrist sprains. Excess strain on the wrist can result in a sprain, which occurs when a wrist ligament is stretched, or in some cases, torn. The sprain happens when the wrist is forced into a position that the body is not prepared to accommodate. Sprains are also common when players trip, and use their hands to break the fall.

Mallet finger (Baseball finger). Occurring due to damage of the finger’s exterior tendon, this injury is often caused by a high-speed basketball or hockey puck hitting the hand. The impact causes pain and inflammation, leaves the finger with a deformity, and sometimes damages the bone.

DeQuervain’s Syndrome. This condition develops when the thumb and wrist tendons become inflamed after use. Though the exact cause is unknown, DeQuervain’s seems to result from trauma, repeated grasping motions, or developing arthritis and is commonly seen in rowers and golfers.

Carpal bone fractures. Broken bones in the area of the wrist can occur when an athlete falls or is struck heavily by another player. When this impact is received by an outstretched arm, the entire force is placed on the wrist or carpal bones, causing fractures. A cast can give the bones time to heal, or surgery may be required.