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Poland Syndrome

Poland Syndrome is a congenital disorder primarily characterised by the absence of the pectoral muscles on one side of the body.

The history of Poland Syndrome

Poland Syndrome was first referenced by British anatomist and surgeon Sir Alfred Poland in the cadaver dissection of convict George Elt at Guy’s Hospital, London in 1841.

Poland specifically reported that Elt, who had been said to be unable to draw his hand across his chest, displayed an absence of the pectoralis minor muscle as well as the sterno-costal portion on the pectoralis major. (Guy’s Hospital Reports VI: 191-193, 1841)


Poland Syndrome is a rare disorder. Current estimates are that the condition occurs in one in every 30,000 live births. Accounts do vary, however, and it is still undetermined exactly how rare the condition is.

The features and severity of Poland Syndrome are extremely variable, often resulting in milder cases of the disorder not being evident until puberty, when the lack of breast tissue and chest muscle mass becomes more obvious. For this reason, cases of Poland Syndrome are under-reported and often misdiagnosed, making it very difficult to determine the exact incidence.

For reasons unappreciated, the right side of the body appears to be affected twice as often as the left side, and boys appear to be affected three times as often as girls.

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