Amniotic Band Syndrome

Amniotic Band Syndrome

Joshua M. Abzug

Scott H. Kozin


  • The bands may affect the soft tissue and involve partial or complete circumferential constriction of part or all of the following structures: skin, subcutaneous tissue, tendons/muscles, nerves, and bone.

  • The bands may entangle any part of the upper or lower extremity. Proximal constricture can lead to loss of the entire arm or leg. Distal involvement is more common and presentation varies with degrees of constriction.

  • The presence of a cleft proximal to acrosyndactyly (connection of the digit tips) is diagnostic of amniotic band syndrome as this represents normal apoptosis leading to development of the web and subsequent syndactylization due to scarring from the bands (FIG 2).


  • Numerous theories exist regarding the underlying cause of amniotic band syndrome. The most common theory is that amniotic disruption causes release of bands (free-floating strands of membrane) that encircle the affected part, causing circumferential constrictions that strangle the affected limb or digit.5 Rupture also leads to oligohydramnios with resultant external compression on the developing limb.

    Table 1 Terms Used to Describe Amniotic Band Syndrome

    Constriction band syndrome

    Streeter dysplasia

    Amniotic disruption sequence

    Constriction ring syndrome

    Limb-body wall malformation complex

    Annular band syndrome

    Amniotic deformity, adhesions, and mutations complex

    Simonart band

    Early amnion rupture sequence

    Intrauterine or fetal amputation

  • Protruding fetal structures are more likely to be involved due to entrapment by the bands.

    • Most common location is digits (56%), followed by hand/wrist (24%), then foot/ankle (10%).3

    • Most commonly affected digits are the central digits due to their increased length—long finger (28%), ring finger (27%), and index finger (23%).


  • Amniotic band syndrome is nonprogressive.

  • Recognition of the limb difference occurs either in utero via ultrasonography or is readily apparent at birth.

  • Ultrasound will show a progressive enlargement of the digit distal to the band (Francisco).

  • Peripheral nerve palsy, distal anesthesia, vascular insufficiency, venous congestion, or lymphedema may occur due to the presence of a band affecting the neurovascular structures.8,10


  • Examination of the child at birth will demonstrate the location and extent of the band(s).

  • Digital constriction will dictate the clinical scenario.

    • Mild to moderate damage initiates an embryonic repair process and yields variable amounts of circumferential stricture with or without resultant distal lymphedema.

    • Inflammatory response may cause adjacent digits to merge distal to the rudimentary web.

      FIG 1 • Photograph of a severe case of amniotic band syndrome that caused substantial deformity and functional limitations. (Courtesy of Shriners Hospital for Children, Philadelphia, PA.)

      FIG 2 • Dorsal view of brachysyndactyly that occurred due to amniotic band syndrome. The presence of the clefts proximally, that vessel loops are traversing is diagnostic of amniotic band syndrome. (Courtesy of Shriners Hospital for Children, Philadelphia, PA.)

    • A large fusion mass may occur, making it difficult to decipher precise orientation of the digits.

  • Severe constrictions may result in digit(s)/limb(s) amputation.

  • Ulceration at the base of a ring or with firm skin protuberances on the dorsum of the finger may occur.2


  • No imaging is required to manage simple bands or bands that are proximal.

  • Plain radiographs are sufficient to evaluate digits when there are multiple digits fused.

    • Typically, only a posteroanterior (PA) view is needed (FIG 3).


  • Observation is the nonoperative management of amniotic band syndrome.

  • As with all congenital differences, priority should be given to function over appearance. In other words, function trumps form. Therefore, it may be better in certain circumstances to leave digits syndactylized if they function better together than apart.


Jul 22, 2016 | Posted by in ORTHOPEDIC | Comments Off on Amniotic Band Syndrome
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