If you watched the season finale of TLC’s “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” two weeks ago like we did, you may be curious about new baby Kaitlyn’s duplicate thumb.
We were too, so we talked to Children’s National’s orthopaedic hand surgeon Emily Hattwick, MD, MPH, about duplicate thumbs and what they mean for a child’s development.
Are duplicate thumbs common?
A duplicate thumb is an uncommon problem in children and is associated with differences in the heart, kidneys, and head.
Will a child with a duplicate thumb have difficulties?
The duplicate thumb becomes an issue as the child starts using the hand to grasp and later pinch objects, toys, and food. Having two thumbs can affect power pinch and grasp. Normal power pinch requires a stable thumb that can move in front of the other fingers (opposition) and contact the tip of the thumb with the tip of one of the fingers. The most common duplicated thumb involves both bones of the thumb and is called a Type IV duplication. This often results in a curved position of the thumbs with reduced movement in the thumb joints. Because the thumb impacts how we use our hands so much, it is important to give the child the best possible ability to pinch with the tip of the thumb and to move (or oppose) the thumb.
Is there a treatment to a duplicate thumb?
Removing the extra thumb and straightening the retained thumb gives the child the best ability to use his thumb and hand.
If you were Kaitlyn’s surgeon, what would you recommend?
In Kaitlyn’s case, the thumbs look curved and seem to be duplicated at both bones of the thumb. The child would probably benefit from removing the more different thumb and possibly straightening the remaining thumb at or after she turns 1. For now, I would suggest an x-ray at 6 months and observe how she uses the thumb to play over this first year of life. I would specifically watch the motion at each joint of the thumbs and how she pinches and picks up large and small objects as she plays.