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Claw hand

Ulnar nerve palsy - claw hand; Ulnar nerve dysfunction - claw hand; Ulnar claw

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

Considerations

Someone can be born with claw hand (congenital), or they can develop it because of certain disorders, such as nerve injury.

Causes

Causes may include:

  • Congenital abnormality, such as from Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
  • Nerve damage in the arm
  • Scarring after a severe burn of the hand or forearm
  • Rare infections, such as leprosy

When to Contact a Medical Professional

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 Office Visit

Your provider will examine you and look closely at your hands and feet. You will be asked questions about your medical history and symptoms.

The following tests may be done to check for nerve damage:

  • Electromyography (EMG) to check the health of the muscles and the nerves that control the muscles
  • Nerve conduction studies to check how fast electrical signals move through a nerve

Treatment depends on the cause. It may include:

  • Splinting
  • Surgery to fix problems that may be contributing to the claw hand, such as nerve or tendon problems, joint contractures, or scar tissue
  • Tendon transfer (graft) to allow movement of the hand and wrist
  • Therapy to straighten the fingers

References

Davis TRC. Principles of tendon transfers of median, radial and ulnar nerves. In: Wolfe SW, Hotchkiss RN, Pederson WC, Kozin SH, Cohen MS, eds. Green's Operative Hand Surgery. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 31.

Sapienza A, Green S. Correction of the claw hand. Hand Clin. 2012;28(1):53-66. PMID: 22117924 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22117924.

    • Claw hand

      Claw hand - illustration

      Claw hand is a hand characterized by curved or bent fingers, making the hand appear claw-like.

      Claw hand

      illustration

      • Claw hand

        Claw hand - illustration

        Claw hand is a hand characterized by curved or bent fingers, making the hand appear claw-like.

        Claw hand

        illustration

      Review Date: 8/15/2018

      Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

      The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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