Ectrodactyly: What Is “Lobster Claw Syndrome?”

What Is Ectrodactyly?

split hand malformation

Ectrodactyly, otherwise known as a split hand malformation, is characterized by the absence of a central digit (finger), resulting in a split appearance of the hand. It can also be found in the feet, with a central toe missing and the foot splitting into two distinct parts. The condition has also been called “lobster claw syndrome” because it causes the hands or feet to look similar to claws. The condition is very rare, being found in only 1 out of 18,000 births. It affects males and females equally and can be found in all races.


Ectrodactyly is almost always the result of a human gene defect. This can be inherited as an autosomal dominant with reduced penetrance or can occur as a duplication on 10q24.


There is only one type of ectrodactyly.



  • Absence of fingers or toes
  • Split, claw-like appearance of the hands or feet


Ectrodactyly can be diagnosed by your child’s pediatrician. Since the symptoms are physically apparent, all that is required is a physical examination. Your child’s doctor may order diagnostic imaging, such as x-rays of the hand, to get a better view of the malformation.


In some cases of ectrodactyly can benefit from reconstructive surgery. Reconstructive surgery may be able to correct the formation of the hand and make it so that it has medically “normal” appearance and functioning. Many patients with ectrodactyly learn to cope with the condition and can lead fully functioning lives.

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