Skeletal limb abnormalities refers to a variety of bone structure problems in the arms or legs (limbs).
The term skeletal limb abnormalities is most often used to describe defects in the legs or arms that are due to a problem with genes or chromosomes, or that occur due to an event that happens during pregnancy.
The abnormalities are often present at birth.
Limb abnormalities can develop after birth if a person has rickets or other diseases that affect bone structure.
Skeletal limb abnormalities may be due to any of the following:
- Genetic diseases and chromosomal abnormalities, including Marfan syndrome, Down syndrome, Apert syndrome, and Basal cell nevus syndrome
- Improper position in the womb
- Infections during pregnancy
- Injury during birth
- Metabolism problems
- Pregnancy problems, including limb amputation from amniotic band disruption sequence
- Use of certain medicines during pregnancy including thalidomide, which causes the upper part of the arms or legs to be missing, and aminopterin, which leads to shortness of the forearm
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if you have any concerns about limb length or appearance.
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
An infant with limb abnormalities generally has other symptoms and signs that, when taken together, define a specific syndrome or condition or give a clue as to the cause of the abnormality. Diagnosis is based on a family history, medical history, and thorough physical evaluation.
Medical history questions may include:
- Does anyone in your family have skeletal abnormalities?
- Were there any problems during pregnancy?
- What drugs or medicines were taken during the pregnancy?
- What other symptoms or abnormalities are present?
Deeney VF, Arnold J. Orthopedics. In: Zitelli BJ, McIntire SC, Norwalk AJ, eds. Zitelli and Davis' Atlas of Pediatric Physical Diagnosis. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2018:chap 22.
Herring JA. Skeletal dysplasias. In: Herring JA, ed. Tachdjian's Pediatric Orthopaedics. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 40.
Moore KL, Persaud TVN, Torchia MG. Skeletal system. In: Moore KL, Persaud TVN, Torchia MG, eds. The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 14.
Review Date 10/11/2018
Updated by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.