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Claw hand

Definition

Claw hand is a condition that causes curved or bent fingers. This makes the hand appear like the claw of an animal.

See also: Claw foot

Considerations

Claw hand can be something that someone is born with (congenital) or that they develop because of certain disorders, such as nerve injury.

Common Causes

  • Congenital abnormality
  • Nerve damage in the arm
  • Scarring after a severe burn of the hand or forearm

Call your health care provider if

If the condition is congenital, it is usually diagnosed at birth. If you notice claw hand developing, contact your health care provider.

What to expect at your health care provider's office

The health care provider will perform a physical examination. This examination may include extra attention to the hands and feet.

The health care provider will also ask for your medical history. Medical history questions may include:

  • Time pattern
    • When did you first notice the abnormal hand shape?
    • Is it getting worse?
  • Does it affect both hands?
  • Do other symptoms occur at the same time?

Your doctor may order other studies, such as electromyography (EMG), or nerve conduction studies to evaluate for nerve damage.

TREATMENT

Treatment depends on the cause of the deformity. It may include:

  • Splinting
  • Surgery to fix problems that may be contributing to the claw hand, such as nerve problems, tendon abnormalities, or scar tissue
  • Therapy to straighten the fingers

References

Sarnat HB. Hereditary motor-sensory neuropathies. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 612.

Robinson JA, Preston DC, Shapiro BE. Proximal, distal, and generalized weakness. In: Bradley WG, Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, eds. Neurology in Clinical Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Butterworth-Heinemann; 2008:chap 27.


Review Date: 7/28/2010
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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