The most-visited site
devoted to children's
health and development

Limb Deformities

What Is a Limb Deformity?

"Limb" is another name for the arms or legs. Kids with limb deformities have differences in the way their arms or legs are shaped. For example, their legs may be curved or one might be shorter than the other. Or, a bone in the arm may be short or missing.

A limb deformity that a child is born with is called congenital. A limb deformity that happens after birth is called acquired.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of a Limb Deformity?

Signs of a limb deformity depend on which limb is affected and how severe the deformity is. Some limb deformities are so mild that you can't notice them. Others are quite noticeable and affect the way a child moves or walks.

There are many types of limb deformities. For example, fibular hemimelia is when a baby is born with short and sometimes missing bones in the leg and foot. Limb length discrepancy is when one arm or leg is longer than the other. Sometimes, the knees bow out (bowlegs) or bend inward (knock knees).

A limb deformity also can happen after an injury.

How Is a Limb Deformity Diagnosed?

To diagnose a limb deformity, orthopedic specialists (doctors and other providers who treat bone and muscle problems) talk to the family and the child (if he or she is old enough), and do a physical exam. Tests (such as X-rays or CT scans) usually are done and can help the specialists decide on the best treatment.

How Is a Limb Deformity Treated?

To give the best treatment, health care providers consider how severe the limb deformity is, whether it makes regular activities (such as walking or writing) difficult, how old the child is, and whether the deformity is likely to get worse and cause other problems. Sometimes no treatment is needed.

When needed, treatment may include:

Looking Ahead

Your orthopedic team will help you find the best treatment for your child. Take time to understand exactly what will happen at each stage of the treatment plan. This way, you and your child know what to expect and can follow the plan. Always remember that your care team is there to answer any questions and help you get the best result for your child.

Date reviewed: January 2018
Partner Message