Boy with 35-Pound Hands

The Doctors discuss the story of Mohammad Kaleem, an 8-year-old boy from India who suffers from a mysterious condition that has caused a debilitating deformity of his hands. When Kaleem was born, his hands were twice the size of a normal baby’s. Today, they are almost half the size of his body, and they weigh roughly 18 pounds apiece.

Kaleem has difficulty performing basic daily tasks, such as dressing and feeding himself. His unusual appearance has caused him to become the target of ridicule among his peers; in addition, he reportedly has been shunned from school because his hands frighten his classmates.

Kaleem’s mysterious condition has proven difficult for doctors to diagnose. They suspect he suffers from either lymphangioma or hamartoma, conditions in which benign masses form in different areas of the body. Although genetic testing still needs to be performed to determine the exact cause, pediatric hand surgeon Dr. Andre Panossian speculates that Kaleem has a severe form of bilateral macrodactyly.

Macrodactyly is a rare congenital condition characterized by an overgrowth of bones and tissues in the hands and feet. In certain instances, the entire limb is affected. “It’s unfortunate because there is really no cure,” Dr. Panossian says.

Macrodactyly can be static, but it is more commonly progressive. What causes the condition is unknown, but researchers believe it may be triggered by genetic and/or environmental factors. Macrodactyly is typically benign; however, in Kaleem’s extreme case, it could potentially lead to respiratory or circulatory problems if his hands continue to grow at the same rate.

“The degree to which this young child has it is just truly astounding,” Dr. Panossian says. “If it were only one finger, what we would usually do is amputate that finger, and you get a pretty functional hand. But in this particular case, there’s nothing short of amputation of the whole limb that you would have to offer this child — and then put on a prosthetic.”

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