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Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita -ˈməl-tə-ˌpleks-kən-ˈjen-ət-ə

By Simeon A. Boyadjiev Boyd, MD, Professor of Pediatrics and Genetics, Section of Genetics, Department of Genetics, University of California, Davis

Arthrogryposis multiplex congenita refers to a variety of conditions that involve limited joint movement.

Any condition that impairs the movement of the baby while in the womb can result in arthrogryposis multiplex congenita. Such causes may involve

More than 35 genetic disorders (such as spinal muscular atrophy type I and trisomy 18) have been associated with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita.

In infants with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, a number of joints become curved and "frozen" and consequently cannot bend. Many infants have weakened muscles. Decreased movement of the baby's muscles and joints while in the womb likely cause the decreased movement of the joints after birth. Sometimes the nerves that would normally move the bones in the affected joints are also impaired. Infants with arthrogryposis may also have dislocated hips, knees, or elbows.

Babies born with arthrogryposis typically develop relatively normal intelligence, except when the arthrogryposis is caused by a disorder or syndrome that also affects intelligence. Doctors seek to establish a specific diagnosis for what has caused the arthrogryposis so that parents know what the prognosis is and can receive genetic counseling.

Placing the baby's limbs in a cast and doing physical therapy to carefully move and manipulate the stiff joints may improve joint movements. Surgery may be needed to free the bones from attached tissue in order to have more normal joint movement. Surgically moving a muscle (for example, moving the triceps muscle so that it can flex rather than extend the elbow) may improve function.

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