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An example of polydactyly.

12-Fingered, 12-Toed Baby Born in Rare Case of Polydactyly

February 02, 2009 03:01 PM
by Denis Cummings
A baby was born last month with a “beautiful variation” of polydactyly, a congenital anomaly that causes children to be born with an extra finger or toe.

Baby Born With 12 Fingers, 12 Toes

Kamani Hubbard was born in early January with six fully formed and fully functioning fingers and toes on each hand and foot. They are shaped so perfectly that doctors did not even notice there were extra digits until the baby’s father, Kris Hubbard, pointed it out.

The condition, called polydactyly, occurs in approximately one out of every 500–1,000 births, though the extra digits are often nonfunctioning or sticking out from the side of the hand. Doctors commonly remove the extra digit soon after birth, but Kamani Hubbard’s parents and doctors are planning to leave his digits in place.

“It’s merely an interesting and beautiful variation rather than a worrisome thing,” said Dr. Michael Treece to KTVU-TV (San Francisco). “I would be tempted to leave those fingers in place. I realize children would tease each other over the slightest things, and having extra digits on each hand is more than slight. But imagine what sort of a pianist a 12-fingered person would be. Imagine what sort of a flamenco guitarist. If nothing else think of their typing skills.”

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Background: Polydactyly

Polydactyly is a congenital anomaly in the hand or foot caused during embryonic development when a single finger or toe splits in two. It can occur on the thumb side of the hand (preaxial polydactyly), the middle of the hand (central polydactyly), or the little finger side (postaxial polydactyly).

Kamani Hubbard has postaxial polydactyly, which is 10 times more likely to occur in black children, and also more likely to appear in boys. It is often passed on genetically; Kris Hubbard and several other family members have been born with six fingers, though they have had their extra fingers removed.

Most parents choose to have their baby’s extra digit removed; “Treatment of polydactyly can range from a simple day surgical procedure to remove the extra finger to a more complex procedure involving bone, ligament and tendon,” explains Children’s Hospital Boston.

Key Players: Famous people with polydactyly

There are several well-known figures born with polydactyly. Blues guitarist Theodore Roosevelt “Hound Dog” Taylor was born with six fingers on each hand, both of which were left on after his birth. He lost the extra finger on his right hand when he sliced it off with a razor blade while drunk.

Former Major League pitcher Antonio Alfonseca was born with six fingers and six toes on each limb. His extra fingers were about half the size of his pinky and likely would have been amputated if he were born in the United States; in Alfonseca’s native Dominican Republic, such surgeries are uncommon. Though the sixth finger provided no help in gripping the ball, it did earn him the nickname “Pulpo,” the Spanish word for “octopus.”

There are other notable people who were born with polydactyly, but had the extra digits removed at birth. One such case is Bond girl Gemma Arterton, who was born with small, boneless digits on the little finger side of her hand.

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