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AAOS Now

Published 6/1/2009

Congenital and infantile developmental conditions of the musculoskeletal system

Congenital and infantile developmental conditions of the musculoskeletal system include a variety of defects, ranging from extra fingers or toes to serious and disabling conditions, such as spina bifida. Congenital conditions are present at birth, while infantile developmental conditions present themselves in the first few months of a child’s life.

Although the overall rate of congenital and infantile developmental conditions of the musculoskeletal system is low in comparison to other types of musculoskeletal conditions, they place a high lifetime burden on patients, their families, and the medical community.

The estimated number of infants born each year with one of eight musculoskeletal defects ranges from just over 600 infants born with a longitudinal limb deficiency (missing one or more arms or legs) to more than 5,600 with polydactyly (the presence of extra fingers or toes). Cerebral palsy, a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and to maintain balance and posture, is thought to affect 3 in 1,000 children. Congenital and infantile developmental musculoskeletal conditions affect children of various races in different numbers.

Cost of congenital and infantile developmental conditions
The small number of persons affected with these conditions precludes accurate estimates of the cost of treating children and adults with congenital and developmental musculoskeletal conditions.

The future
Further surveillance and research efforts in congenital and infantile developmental conditions are needed. First, a better understanding is needed of the extent to which these conditions affect disability, death, and the need for healthcare services. Second, there is a need to identify possible causes and factors that may influence the health status, development, and level of functioning of children with these conditions. Finally, there is a need to develop and evaluate potential ways to prevent their occurrence.

Editor’s Note: Each month AAOS Now will reprise a section of the Executive Summary prepared for The Burden of Musculoskeletal Diseases in the United States: Prevalence, Societal and Economic Cost.

References for the statistics cited (PDF)