Thalidomide upper limb embryopathy -: pathogenesis, past and present management and future considerations

Neil Vargesson* (Corresponding Author), Geoffrey Hooper, Grey Giddins, Alastair Hunter, Paul Stirling, Wee Lam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Thalidomide embryopathy results in various congenital upper limb differences, ranging from complete amelia to radial dysplasia and digital malformations. This review article provides a comprehensive overview including updates about its pathogenesis, a historical account of the management of the paediatric thalidomide patient, experience with management of the adult patient as well as creating awareness about early onset age-related changes associated with limb differences. Despite its withdrawal from the market in November 1961, novel discoveries have meant thalidomide is licensed again and is currently still in use to treat a variety of conditions, including inflammatory disorders and some cancers. Yet, if not used safely thalidomide still has the potential to cause damage to the embryo. Recent work identifying thalidomide analogues that retain clinical benefits yet without the harmful effects are showing great promise.
Understanding the problems thalidomide survivors face as they age can allow
surgeons to support their unique healthcare issues and translate these principles of care to other congenital upper limb differences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)699-709
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of hand surgery-European volume
Issue number8
Early online date24 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023

Bibliographical note

Open Access via the Sage Agreement


  • thalidomide
  • radial dysplasia
  • reversed shoulder
  • embryopathy
  • cereblon


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