Congenital Limb Defects

Sometimes, a child’s arm or leg does not form or grow properly in the womb, and the child is born with a malformed limb. This is called a congenital limb defect.

Causes of Congenital Limb Defects

We don’t know the exact causes of congenital limb defects; however, the chance of a congenital limb defect occurring increases when:

  • There are genetic abnormalities
  • The baby’s growth is restricted
  • The baby or mother is exposed to certain chemicals, medicines, or viruses
  • The mother smokes tobacco during the pregnancy


A child with a congenital limb defect may have:

  • An arm or leg that is smaller or larger than normal
  • Failure of the fingers or toes to separate
  • Extra or missing fingers or toes
  • Lack of an arm or leg

Diagnosis & Treatment at UVA Health Children's

Congenital limb defects are diagnosed at birth. We'll also check your child for any related conditions.

Treatment varies, but may include:

  • Prosthetic limb
  • Surgery
  • Physical therapy or other rehabilitation