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Poland syndrome

Poland syndrome
Digital mammogram (Mediolateral view) showing absence of the pectoralis major muscle and architectural distortion on the left side and normal right breast
Classification and external resources
ICD-10 Q79.8
ICD-9 756.89
OMIM 173800
DiseasesDB 31679
eMedicine plastic/132
NCI Poland syndrome
Patient UK Poland syndrome
MeSH D011045

Poland syndrome (also Poland's syndrome, Poland's syndactyly, Poland sequence,[1] and Poland's anomaly) is a rare birth defect characterized by underdevelopment or absence of the chest muscle (pectoralis) on one side of the body, and usually also webbing of the fingers (cutaneous syndactyly) of the hand on the same side (the ipsilateral hand). In most affected individuals, the missing part is the large section of the muscle that normally attaches to the upper arm on one side and the breastbone (sternum) on the other. Other abnormalities may occur on the affected side of the torso. In some cases, additional muscles in the chest wall, side, and shoulder are missing or underdeveloped.

There may also be rib cage abnormalities, such as shortened ribs, and the ribs may be noticeable due to less fat under the skin (subcutaneous fat). Breast and nipple abnormalities may also occur, and underarm (axillary) hair is sometimes sparse or abnormally placed. In most cases, the abnormalities in the chest area do not cause health problems or affect movement.[2] Poland syndrome most often affects the right side of the body, and occurs more often in males than in females.

It is usually considered a unilateral condition. Some have claimed that the term can be applied in bilateral presentation,[3] but others recommend using alternate terminology in those cases.[4]


File:Poland syndrome description.jpg
Alfred Poland's original description of the syndrome.

It was first named in 1962 by Patrick Clarkson, a New Zealand-born British plastic surgeon working at Guy's Hospital and Queen Mary's Hospital, London. He noticed that three of his patients had both a hand deformity and an underdeveloped breast on the same side. He discussed this with his colleague at Guy's Hospital, Dr Philip Evans, who agreed that the syndrome was "not widely appreciated". Clarkson found a reference to a similar deformity published by Alfred Poland, over a hundred years earlier in Guy's Hospital reports, in 1841.[5] Clarkson was able to find the hand specimen dissected by Poland, which was still held in the hospital pathology museum.

Poland had dissected a convict called George Elt, who was said to be unable to draw his hand across his chest. Poland noted the chest wall deformity, and this was illustrated in his article; the hand was also dissected and preserved for posterity in Guy's Hospital museum where it remains today. It cannot be truly said that Poland described this syndrome because he only described one isolated case. Clarkson published his series of three cases and named the syndrome after Poland in his article.[6]


According to the National Human Genome Research Institute, Poland syndrome affects males three times as often as females and affects the right side of the body twice as often as the left.[7] The incidence is estimated to range from one in 7,000 to one in 100,000 live births.[8]


The cause of Poland syndrome is unknown. However, an interruption of the embryonic blood supply to the arteries that lie under the collarbone (subclavian arteries) at about the 46th day of embryonic development is the prevailing theory.[9]

The subclavian arteries normally supply blood to embryonic tissues that give rise to the chest wall and hand. Variations in the site and extent of the disruption may explain the range of signs and symptoms that occur in Poland syndrome. Abnormality of an embryonic structure called the apical ectodermal ridge, which helps direct early limb development, may also be involved in this disorder.Rare cases of Poland syndrome are thought to be caused by a genetic change that can be passed down in families, but no related genes have been identified.[10]

Notable cases

British TV presenter Jeremy Beadle (1948–2008) was known for having this condition. His Poland Syndrome manifested itself in the form of his disproportionately small right hand.[11]

Olympic boxer Jérôme Thomas is also affected by Poland syndrome as his left arm and hand are significantly shorter and smaller than his right. Thomas also lacks a left pectoral muscle.

PGA Tour golfer Bryce Molder has Poland syndrome with an absent left pectoral muscle and a small left hand. Several surgeries in his childhood repaired syndactly on the left hand.[12]

Researchers from the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at the Yonsei University College of Medicine in Seoul, Korea reported a case of congenital absence of pectoralis major in 1990. According to Kakulas and Adams, pectoralis major is the most frequently congenitally absent muscle. The case involved a 22 year old marine who had asymmetrical configuration of chest wall who had never experienced difficulties performing daily activities, but who experienced difficulties in the military camp. He had difficulty in some training activities especially those such as throwing a grenade or rope climbing.

During a surgery performed to correct the sternal depression, it was found that the right pectoralis major was totally absent. However, previous physical exams did not show deficiencies in muscle strength as the right shoulder was good for flexion, adduction, horizontal adduction and internal rotation. Moreover, his pain and touch sensation were normal. X-rays were also performed and showed normal pictures of the chest's bones. The fact that the absence of pectoralis major did not cause functional loss in ordinary activities in this case of congenital absence showed that other surrounding muscles played a compensation role.[10

Clinical features

Example female breasts with Poland syndrome
Very frequent signs

Frequent signs

Occasional signs


  1. ^ Martínez-Frías ML, Czeizel AE, Rodríguez-Pinilla E, Bermejo E (January 1999). "Smoking during pregnancy and Poland sequence: results of a population-based registry and a case-control registry". Teratology 59 (1): 35–8. PMID 9988881. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1096-9926(199901)59:1<35::AID-TERA8>3.0.CO;2-E. 
  2. ^ "Poland Syndrome". Genetics Home Reference. Retrieved 12 December 2014. 
  3. ^ Karnak I, Tanyel FC, Tunçbilek E, Unsal M, Büyükpamukçu N (February 1998). "Bilateral Poland anomaly". Am. J. Med. Genet. 75 (5): 505–7. PMID 9489794. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1096-8628(19980217)75:5<505::AID-AJMG9>3.0.CO;2-L. 
  4. ^ Maroteaux P, Le Merrer M (December 1998). "Bilateral Poland anomaly versus thoracic dysplasia". Am. J. Med. Genet. 80 (5): 538–9. PMID 9880227. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1096-8628(19981228)80:5<538::AID-AJMG23>3.0.CO;2-S. 
  5. ^ Poland A (1841). "Deficiency of the pectoral muscles". Guy's Hospital Reports VI: 191–193. 
  6. ^ Clarkson P (1962). "Poland’s syndactyly". Guys Hosp Rep 111: 335–46. PMID 14021589. 
  7. ^ "Learning about Poland Anomaly". Retrieved 2007-02-09. 
  8. ^ Fokin A, Robicsek F (2002). "Poland's syndrome revisited". Ann Thorac Surg 74 (6): 2218–25. PMID 12643435. doi:10.1016/S0003-4975(02)04161-9. 
  9. ^ Poullin P, Toussirot E, Schiano A, Serratrice G (1992). "[Complete and dissociated forms of Poland's syndrome (5 cases)]". Rev Rhum Mal Osteoartic 59 (2): 114–20. PMID 1604222. 
  10. ^ "Poland Syndrome". Genetics Home Reference. Retrieved 12 December 2014. 
  11. ^ Burt, Jennifer (1997-10-20). "Jeremy is a role model for children". Leicester (UK) Mercury. 
  12. ^

External links