Arthrogryposis is a rare genetic disorder occurring in 1 in 3000 live births. This disorder is thought to be caused due to genetic factors or due to the mal effects of some drugs. In these nerves, muscle and tissue develop abnormally causing multiple joint contractures and malformed limbs. The muscles are weak and the child may suffer from fibrosis.

Symptoms of Arthrogryposis

A child born with arthrogryposis has normal intelligence and cognitive skills. Malformation of limbs is a common occurrence in these births. The limbs typically affected are:

  1. Shoulder
  2. Foot
  3. Wrist
  4. Fingers
  5. Elbows
  6. Hip
  7. Knee
  8. The thumb is deformed and turned towards the palm

Depending on the severity of the disorder, all or some of the joints may be affected. The child has limited mobility and this is a symptom that is discernible in the womb itself.

Complications like growth retardation, abdominal hernia, facial and jaw distortions, and respiratory problems may be present.


Causes of Arthrogryposis

Other than genetic causes, medical research has isolated the following as probable causes of Arthrogryposis.

  1. The mother’s uterus may be abnormally shaped or lack amniotic fluid to sustain normal movements of the fetus.
  2. The central nervous system in the fetus may be malformed, complications like spina bifida, spinal muscular atrophy, or the brain itself may be malformed
  3. Multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, or muscular dystrophy may be inherited from the parents
  4. Any viral infection like German measles contracted by the expectant mother may cause this condition
  5. An increase in body temperature of the expectant mother beyond  above 102 degree Fahrenheit due to fever sunstroke or hot bats
  6. Drug or alcohol abuse by the expectant mother

Diagnosis of Arthrogryposis

A child born with arthrogryposis can be identified soon after birth with the following symptoms:

  1. The fetus is born with the limbs folded and fixed in that position with little limb mobility
  2. The joints in the limbs have extremely limited mobility
  3. Muscular development in arms and legs is severely retarded
  4. The hips may be dislocated and the child may face pain in kicking its legs.

Result: Lack of movement of the joint in the womb results in the growth of connective tissue around it, thereby fixing it. Lack of movement also means that tendons are not stretched and do not grow to their normal length.

Treatment:  The treatment is prolonged and may involve the services of physiotherapists and orthopedic surgeons. Mobility training and physiotherapy to stretch and strengthen joints would definitely help. Clubfoot can be corrected with surgery, casting, and splinting of the joints. Some form of occupational therapy may also be prescribed to develop fine motor skills. Physical therapy programs on a daily basis may help in some cases.  External fixator Ilizarov may be used in other cases.  Surgical intervention is also necessary in many cases.

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