A rare congenital hamartomatous disorder characterized
by multiple, diverse, somatic manifestations: partial bilateral gigantism of
hands and feet, nevi, hemihypertrophy, subcutaneous tumors, macrocephaly
with cranial hyperostoses.
Digital gigantism in an infant with Proteus syndrome.
Digital gigantism involving digits II-V in a 6-year-old girl with
Elattoproteus Syndrome; Wiedemann Syndrome; Partial Gigantism of Hands and Feet Syndrome; Nevi
Hemihypertrophy Macrocephaly Syndrome; Encephalocraniocutaneous Lipomatosis
Syndrome; Hamartomas Disorder, Multifarious Mesodermal Malformation,
It is named after the Greek god Proteus, “the
polymorphous,” who could change his shape at will to avoid capture. Proteus lived on the
Island of Pharos, close to the mouth of the Nile or in the caves of the island of
Karpatos, between Crete and Rhodos. It was described by Hans-Rudolf Wiedemann, a German pediatrician, in 1983.
Joseph Merrick, known as the “elephant man” is now, in retrospect, believed to have
been affected by Proteus syndrome.
Internationally, it is estimated that approximately 200
individuals are affected with this medical condition. The prevalence is believed to be
less than 1 per 1,000,000 live births. There is no predilection for any race and sex.
All cases are sporadic. At least, some of the abnormalities are present at birth, or
they appear within the first year of life. This medical condition usually progresses
Postulated to be genetic although cases are
mainly sporadic. Few cases with autosomal inheritance reported. The cause
may be a dominant lethal gene, with survival by somatic mosaicism.
May involve abnormal secretion of a growth factor
or abnormal tissue or tissue response to a growth factor.
The diagnostic criteria of Proteus syndrome include
regional generalized tissue hyperplasia (such as digital gigantism,
macrocephaly, hemihypertrophy), skin lesions (e.g., hypoor hyperpigmented,
thickened skin creases), and mesodermal hamartomas (such as lipoma,
lymphangioma, hemangioma, exostosis, or fibroma). There is unique marked
hypertrophy of the skin of the soles—“moccasin sole”—with light
microscopic findings of elongation of the cytoplasm of basal cells.
Histologic examination of subcutaneous masses has identified a variety of
lipomatous, hamartomatous, and angiomatous tumors.
The disease appears soon after birth and
progresses at a variable rate leading to gross deformity in later childhood.
Some patients are born with large, complex, mixed vascular malformations.
Overgrowth, usually digital, is noted during infancy. In childhood, patients
may also develop linear epidermal nevi. The skeletal system is mainly
affected with hemihypertrophy, macrodactyly, scoliosis, and exostoses over
the skull. Intelligence is usually normal. Spinal compromise may develop in
Proteus syndrome from vertebral anomalies (e.g., angular kyphoscoliosis) or
tumor infiltration. There may be associated pulmonary involvement (rapidly
progressive diffuse cystic emphysematous pulmonary disease ...