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Surgeon offers family a local option for correcting son's fused fingers

Asa Patton

To watch Asa Patton play today, it’s hard to believe he had limited use of his hands just a few months ago.

When Asa was born, his middle and ring fingers on his left hand were fused together with extra bones at the connection. His right hand had an entire extra finger between the middle and ring fingers, and all three were fused together.

It’s called polysyndactyly, a rare condition caused by a genetic mutation.

“As soon as we met him, the concern was out there – the unknown of when he would have surgery, and would there be follow-up surgeries,” says Ty Patton, Asa’s dad. “We were dreading it, and we had so many questions.”

Ty and his wife, Chelsea, assumed they would have to drive to a city with a major children’s hospital such as Kansas City for Asa’s fingers to be separated and his extra finger to be removed.

A local choice

But then Asa’s pediatrician told the Pattons about Joshua Linnell, MD, a hand surgeon who started practicing at Via Christi in 2015. Dr. Linnell had participated in more than 20 surgeries to correct syndactyly and polysyndactyly during a fellowship at Texas Children’s Hospital in Dallas, and had done two since starting his practice in Wichita.

“We were so excited that someone could do it here,” Chelsea says.

“It was a home run, finding Dr. Linnell,” Ty says. “Not only was he local, but he had done his tour of duty with a children’s hospital and had done the surgery before.”

Dr. Linnell explained the process of separating the fingers, removing the extra bones in the right hand and using skin from the extra finger – along with skin grafts – to cover the exposed areas.

“You try to create a rapport and trust with the parents and be open with them,” Dr. Linnell says, acknowledging that he takes the responsibility of operating on a child very seriously.

Asa was 9 months old when he had the surgery in December 2015. Dr. Linnell says that is an ideal age because the child’s fingers are larger than at birth, and there are lower risks for children on anesthesia by that age. Also, that is around the time when children are beginning to use their fingers independently, so putting the surgery off until later could delay development of fine motor skills.

The surgery went flawlessly, and Asa’s arms were placed in casts for two weeks to ensure the skin grafts could heal.

“We were blown away when they took the casts off,” Chelsea says. “It was unbelievable. He had these little fingers.”

'Best outcome'

Having the surgery in Wichita meant the family could keep their normal routine at their home in Benton until the day of surgery, then return home the next day. And Asa’s grandparents were there along the way to provide support.

After a few months of outpatient occupational therapy, Asa is an active 19-month-old. He likes Thomas the Tank Engine, playing outdoors and reading books.

The best part: No follow-up surgery will be necessary.

“We just want to make sure he’s playing and using both hands,” Dr. Linnell says. “He’s doing great.”

And Asa’s parents are relieved to have the process to be complete – and that they could do it all in Wichita.

“Being on the other side of it,” Ty says, “this is the best outcome we could have hoped for.”

Right hand before and after

Left hand before and after