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Radial Dysplasia

Reviewed by: Jennifer M. Ty, MD

What Is Radial Dysplasia?

Babies with radial dysplasia (also called radial club hand) are born with a short or missing radial bone.

The radial bone (also called the radius) is one of the two forearm bones. The short or missing radial bone causes the hand and wrist to turn inward toward the thumb side of the forearm. It also makes the forearm shorter than normal.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Radial Dysplasia?

There are four types of radial . Signs and symptoms depend on what type of radial dysplasia a child has.

Type I

This is the mildest form of radial dysplasia. The radius is just a little shorter than normal and the wrist turns in only slightly.

Type II

The radius is much smaller than usual and the wrist is more turned in.

Type III

A large part of the radius missing and there is more severe turning in of the wrist. The other bone of the forearm (the ulna) is curved and thickened.

Type IV

There is no radius at all. The wrist is very turned in.

In all types, the thumb may be smaller than usual or completely missing. Radial dysplasia can happen on one or both sides.

What Causes Radial Dysplasia?

Radial dysplasia happens while a baby is developing in the womb. It may be part of a known as VACTERL syndrome.

In this condition, the baby may have:

  • Vertebral (spine) differences
  • Anal atresia (an anus that does not open to the outside of the body)
  • Cardiac (heart) problems
  • Tracheo-Esphogeal (a connection between the breathing and swallowing tubes)
  • Renal (kidney) issues
  • Limb differences in addition to the radial dysplasia

Sometimes it can happen as part of other genetic syndromes where there are other medical problems too.

Who Gets Radial Dysplasia?

Any baby can be born with radial dysplasia. It does not run in families. 

How Is Radial Dysplasia Diagnosed?

A prenatal ultrasound might show radial dysplasia. Otherwise, doctors diagnose it when a baby is born.

X-rays of the bones in the hands and arms will help doctors decide on the best kind of treatment. Other tests might be done to see if the radial dysplasia is part of a genetic syndrome.

How Is Radial Dysplasia Treated?

Treatment for radial dysplasia depends on how severe the changes are. Treatment may include:

  • exercises
  • splinting and casting to help stretch the arm and wrist
  • surgery to center the wrist or to make the thumb better

Looking Ahead

Even with challenges, children with radial dysplasia are very good about finding ways to use their hands well. Some tasks can be adapted, like having shoes with Velcro instead of laces. Work with the medical team to help your child learn what works best.

Reviewed by: Jennifer M. Ty, MD
Date reviewed: June 2018