MSD Manual

Please confirm that you are not located inside the Russian Federation

honeypot link


(Genetic Skeletal Dysplasias; Osteochondrodysplastic Dwarfism)


Frank Pessler

, MD, PhD, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research

Reviewed/Revised Dec 2022
Topic Resources

Osteochondrodysplasias are a group of rare hereditary disorders of connective tissue, bone, or cartilage that cause the skeleton to develop abnormally.

In osteochondrodysplasias, the growth and development of bone Bones Bone, although strong, is a constantly changing tissue that has several functions. Bones serve as rigid structures to the body and as shields to protect delicate internal organs. They provide... read more Bones , cartilage, and/or connective tissue is impaired usually because of mutations in the genes that play an important role in the development of connective tissue. Connective tissue Overview of Connective Tissue Disorders in Children Connective tissue is the tough, often fibrous tissue that binds the body's structures together and provides support and elasticity. Muscles, bones, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons are built... read more is the tough, often fibrous tissue that binds the body's structures together and provides support and elasticity.


Each type of osteochondrodysplasia causes different symptoms, but all osteochondrodysplasias cause short stature (dwarfism). Dwarfism is defined as an adult height of 4 feet 10 inches (147 centimeters) or shorter in both men and women.

Some osteochondrodysplasias cause more shortening of the limbs than the trunk (short-limbed dwarfism), whereas others cause more shortening of the trunk than the limbs.

The most common and best-known type of short-limbed dwarfism is called achondroplasia. Children and adults with achondroplasia often have bowlegs Bowlegs Bowlegs and knock-knees are the two major types of knee deformities. They are birth defects. Birth defects, also called congenital anomalies, are physical abnormalities that occur before a baby... read more Bowlegs , a bulky forehead, an unusually shaped nose (saddle nose), and an arched back. Sometimes joints do not develop their full range of motion.

There is a lethal form of short-limbed dwarfism called thanatophoric dysplasia that causes severe deformities of the chest and respiratory failure in newborns, which results in death.

Diagnosis of Osteochondrodysplasias

  • A doctor's evaluation

  • X-rays

  • Tests before birth

Sometimes the abnormal genes responsible for osteochondrodysplasias can be detected, usually by a blood test. Analyzing the genes is most helpful for predicting the disorder before birth.

Diagnosis of severe types before birth is also possible using other methods. In some cases, the fetus can be directly viewed with a flexible scope (fetoscopy), or ultrasonography Ultrasonography Prenatal testing for genetic disorders and birth defects involves testing a pregnant woman or fetus before birth (prenatally) to determine whether the fetus has certain abnormalities, including... read more is done.

Treatment of Osteochondrodysplasias

  • Replacement of joints

  • Sometimes surgical lengthening of limbs and correction of bowlegs

If joint movement is severely restricted, surgery may be needed to replace joints such as the hip with artificial ones.

Doctors may be able to increase a person’s adult height by doing a surgical procedure to lengthen the limbs. A surgical procedure can also be done to correct bowlegs.

Although people with achondroplasia are short, treatment with growth hormones is generally not effective. However, vosoritide, a medication that may play a role in bone growth, is available as a possible treatment.

Because the basic genetic defects have been identified in most of the osteochondrodysplasias, genetic counseling can be effective.

Organizations such as Little People of America provide resources for affected people and act as advocates on their behalf. Similar societies are active in other countries.

More Information

The following English-language resource may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of this resource.

  • Little People of America: An organization providing community resources and medical support and information to people of short stature

quiz link

Test your knowledge

Take a Quiz!