Hesperian Health Guides

Incomplete or Missing Arms or Legs

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Sometimes medicines a mother takes early in pregnancy cause a child to be born with missing or incomplete arms or legs, or both.

A child born without arms but with normal legs and feet can often learn to use his feet almost as if they were hands: for eating, writing, drawing, playing games, and doing many kinds of work.

It is important to encourage the child to use her feet, or whatever part of her body possible, to do everything she can for herself.

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The child who is born with incomplete arms and legs can be helped a lot by artificial arms with hooks for grasping.

We do not give instructions for making these arms in this book, as they are fairly complicated. However, try every possibility to get artificial arms for the child. They can make a very big difference in her life. If possible, the child should get her first limbs by age 3.

For ideas about aids and artificial limbs for children born with missing or defective hands and feet, see Chapter 27, “ Amputations,” and Chapter 67, “ Artificial Legs.”

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leg with constrictions around the ankle and missing toes
Village rehabilitation workers made her a plastic brace with a partial foot built into it, so she could wear a regular shoe or sandal.
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plastic leg brace

lightweight foam plastic (inside)
This little girl was born with ‘rubber band-like’ constrictions in her hand and leg, and with parts of her fingers and foot missing. The deformities happened because her mother had German measles when pregnant. Her foot looked like this. A firm foam-plastic foot was shaped and attached to a plaster mold of the foot (see Chapter 58). The plastic brace was heat molded over this.

This page was updated:21 Nov 2019