A review of supernumerary and absent limbs and digits of the upper limb

Zachary Klaassen, Monica Choi, Ruth Musselman, Deborah Eapen, R. Shane Tubbs, Marios Loukas

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


For years people have been enamored by anomalies of the human limbs, particularly supernumerary and absent limbs and digits. Historically, there are a number of examples of such anomalies, including royal families of ancient Chaldea, tribes from Arabia, and examples from across nineteenth century Europe. The development of the upper limbs in a growing embryo is still being elucidated with the recent advent of homeobox genes, but researchers agree that upper limbs develop between stages 12-23 through a complex embryological process. Maternal thalidomide intake during limb development is known to cause limb reduction and subsequent amelia or phocomelia. Additionally, a number of clinical reports have illustrated different limb anomaly cases, with each situation unique in phenotype and developmental abnormality. Supernumerary and absent limbs and digits are not unique to humans, and a number of animal cases have also been reported. This review of the literature illustrates the historical, anatomical, and clinical aspects of supernumerary and absent limbs and digits for the upper limb.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-106
Number of pages6
JournalSurgical and Radiologic Anatomy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Accessory limbs
  • Amelia
  • Anatomy
  • Embryology
  • Phocomelia
  • Supernumerary limbs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Surgery
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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