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Podiatrist - Washington
853 Jefferson Ave
Washington, PA 15301
(724) 225-7410
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What is Amniotic Band Syndrome?

Amniotic band syndrome (ABS) is a rare condition that affects babies while they are in the womb. A baby is protected inside a sac filled with amniotic fluid, but this condition turns the protective sac into a very dangerous place. ABS causes very thin strands of tissue to form inside the amniotic sac. These strands can become wrapped around parts of the baby’s body causing potentially devastating consequences.

As the baby grows, these strands can become constrictive and leave creases or indentations, which are called amniotic bands. These bands can restrict blood flow and affect the baby’s development. The severity of the deformity depends on where the strands are located and how tightly they are wrapped.

The exact cause of this rare condition is not known. It is believed to occur when there has been a rupture of the inner membrane with the outer remaining intact. This causes the fetus to be exposed to the floating tissue from the ruptured membrane.

There are no known prenatal factors associated with this condition. It is not genetic, and it is very rare that it will affect future pregnancies. There has been a relationship found between ABS, clubfoot, and other abnormalities found with ABS include cleft palate, cleft lip, and hemangioma. According to The Fetal Treatment Center at the University of California, San Francisco, the incidence of this condition is 1 in 1200 to 1 in 15,000 live births.

What Are the Effects of Amniotic Band Syndrome?

Most of the time, the amniotic bands only affect the skin and the underlying tissue, creating a slight crease. However, there are cases where they can constrict so much that they go as deep as the bone. The strands most often tangle around a baby’s arms or legs, and may go part way or all the way around the limb. They can also form around the abdomen, chest, face, and head.

The resulting complications will depend on where the strands are located and how tightly they became wrapped in the womb. A mild case may involve a strand wrapping around a finger or toe. This could leave a slight crease, cause a mild deformity, or result in amputation. Syndactyly is a complication where the strands can cause fingers and toes to be fused together—surgical intervention is necessary for correction. Bands around the face or neck can cause a cleft lip and palate. Problems with internal organs can develop when they form around the abdomen, and heart defects can result when found around the chest. In more severe situations, strands become wrapped around an entire limb and may result in amputation. Fetal death can be caused if they occur around the head or umbilical cord.

What is the Outcome?

Every child with this syndrome has a unique case, since the severity can range from mild to life threatening. This requires each child to have a treatment plan that is tailored to his or her specific needs. Prenatal visits and ultrasounds are what reveal the presence of the amniotic bands. Symptoms include indentations around fingers, hands, toes, feet, arms, legs, chest, abdomen or head, swelling, and limb discrepancy.

In a mild case, where the bands were shallow and did not cause much constriction, treatment may not be necessary. In more serious situations, surgery is required to release the bands and to ensure there is no disruption to blood flow or pressure on underlying nerves. The location of the bands and their severity will dictate whether treatment occurs immediately after birth or later.

If you would like more information about this condition or other problems related to the foot and ankle, we would love to provide the help you need. Please contact Dr. Philip Pinsker at our podiatric office in Washington, PA at (724) 225-7410.