Anyone remember Jeremy Beadle’s unusually small right hand? Well that was a result of the rare birth defect known as Poland’s syndrome. Poland’s syndrome is a rare malformation, present from birth that only affects one side of the body, more commonly the right side. The extent to which, and the way in which, Poland’s syndrome manifests itself can vary greatly but its main symptom is the lack of, or underdevelopment of, a chest muscle. Furthermore the hand on the affected side of the body will often be webbed, may be smaller than average and in some cases missing some fingers entirely. The exact cause isn’t known, but it’s thought to be to do with a change in blood flow at around week 7 during pregnancy. Whilst some of the problems, such as the webbed hand, are sorted out in the first few years of childhood, further adjustments are left until after puberty to allow natural growth to finish. Bioengineered cartilage is sometimes fitted to give the chest a more normal appearance and breast reconstruction may be considered in girls after all natural development has occurred. Poland’s syndrome correction can be a long and gruelling process but those afflicted can lead completely normal, healthy lives without corrective surgery.
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