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  • What are the upper and lower limb deficienies?
    • Upper and lower limb deficiencies occur when a part of or the entire arm (upper limb) or leg (lower limb) of a fetus fails to form completely during pregnancy. The limb is reduced from its normal size or is missing.

      CDC estimates that each year about 1,500 babies in the United States are born with upper limb reductions and about 750 are born with lower limb reductions. In other words, each year about 4 out of every 10,000 babies will have upper limb reductions and about 2 out of every 10,000 babies will have lower limb reductions. Some of these babies will have both upper and lower limb reduction defects.

  • What problems do children with limb deficiencies have
    • Babies and children with limb deficiencies will face various issues and difficulties, but the extent of these will depend on the location and size of the reduction. Some potential difficulties and problems include:

      * Difficulties with normal development such as motor skills
      * Needing assistance with daily activities such as self-care
      * Limitations with certain movements, sports, or activities
      * Potential emotional and social issues because of physical appearance

  • How can you treat limb deficiencies?
    • Specific treatment for limb deficiencies will be determined by the child's doctor, based on things like the child’s age, the extent and type of defect, and the child’s tolerance for certain medications, procedures, and therapies.

      The overall goal for treatment of limb deficiencies is to provide the child with a limb that has proper function and appearance. Treatment can vary for each child. Potential treatments include:
      * Prosthetics (artificial limbs)
      * Orthotics (splints or braces)
      * Surgery
      * Rehabilitation (physical or occupational therapy)

      It is important to remember that some babies and children with limb deficiencies will have some difficulties and limitations throughout life, but with proper treatment and care they can live long, healthy and productive lives.

  • What causes limb deficiencies?
    • The cause of limb deficiencies is unknown. However, research has shown that certain behaviors or exposures during pregnancy can increase the risk of having a baby with a limb deficiency. These include:

      * Exposure of the mother to certain chemicals or viruses while she is pregnant
      * Exposure of the mother to certain medications while she is pregnant
      * Exposure of the mother to tobacco smoke

      CDC works with many researchers to study risk factors that can increase the chance of having a baby with limb deficiencies, as well as outcomes of babies with the defect. Following are examples of relevant research findings:
      * A woman taking multivitamins before she gets pregnant might decrease her risk for having a baby with limb reduction defects, although more research is needed.
      * Certain sets of limb reduction defects might be associated with other birth defects, such as heart defects, omphalocele, and gastroschisis.

  • Can limb deficiencies be prevented?
    • There is no known way to prevent this type of defect, but some of the problems experienced later in life by a person born with a limb deficiency can be prevented or screened if the defect is treated early.

      Even so, mothers can take steps before and during pregnancy to have a healthy pregnancy. Steps include taking a daily multivitamin with folic acid (400 micrograms), not smoking, and not drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

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Last Revised: January 28, 2014


Data Query

Upper Limb Deficiencies Data Query
Lower Limb Deficiencies Data Query

Access the upper and lower limb deficiencies data in the WI EPHT online database. Review the Data Details below to learn about interpreting the data.

The WI EPHT online data has data about other birth defects:
Cleft Lip with or without Cleft Palate
Cleft Palate without Cleft Lip
Down Syndrome (Trisomy 21)
Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome
Spina Bifida
Tetralogy of Fallot
Transposition of the Great Arteries

Data Details

What is the data source?

The website provides data from the Wisconsin Birth Defects Registry, which is maintained by the Birth Defect Prevention and Surveillance program, Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

How does WI EPHT measure birth defects?

The WI EPHT website includes the following measures:

  • Prevalence rate of live births by geography
  • Number of birth defects by geography

What are some considerations for interpreting the data?

While significant effort is made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the data, there are limitations that are listed below:

  • The Wisconsin Birth Defects Registry does not currently receive reports from all providers in the state. Thus, the numbers presented here represent only a subset of the actual cases.
  • Reporters have up to two years to provide data to the registry, so some cases from the most recent years may not yet be included in the registry.

There are many factors that can contribute to a disease and should be considered when interpreting the data. Some of these include:

  • Demographics, e.g., race, gender, age
  • Socioeconomic Status, e.g., income level, education
  • Geographic, e.g., urban vs. rural
  • Changes in the medical field, e.g., diagnosis patterns, reporting requirements