[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
September 1957

Ainhum (Dactylosis Spontanea): Report of a Case

Author Affiliations

New York
From Department of Surgery and Pathology, New York Medical College-Metropolitan Hospital Medical Center.; Associate Professor of Pathology, Flower and Fifth Avenue Hospitals; Associate Attending Pathologist, Metropolitan Hospital (Dr. Sala). Assistant Professor of Surgery, New York Medical College; Assistant Attending Surgeon, Flower and Fifth Avenue Hospitals, Metropolitan Hospital, and Bird S. Coler Memorial Hospital (Dr. Silverstein).

AMA Arch Surg. 1957;75(3):473-478. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1957.01280150163018

Ainhum is from a verb in the Yoruba language meaning "to saw" or "to file."42 The term was first applied to an unusual chronic disease affecting the pedal digits,14 and sometimes the fingers,11 by the African Negroes.

The condition was reported by Clarke in 1860.16 He described it as "dry gangrene." It was not until da Silva Lima became aware of the disease in Brazil and reported on it in the Medical Gazette of Bahia17 that the definitive entity was described and the name ainhum formally accepted. A pathologic study by Wucherer in 187254 marked the next phase in the elaboration of the entity. Facio, in 1924, contributed a roentgenologic demonstration to the description of the disease.22

Dactylosis spontanea occurs principally among the colored races, particularly Negroes, and mainly in men between the ages of 25 and 45.14 Cases have been reported in