What is clubfoot?
Clubfoot is an infant foot abnormality that is present at birth and affects around 1 in 1,000 babies. The tissues that connect the muscles to the bone are too short, resulting in the baby’s foot twisting out of position. Clubfoot is often detected during prenatal scans, with boys twice as likely to be affected than girls. It is a fairly common birth defect that typically presents the same way each time: the foot is turned inward and points down. It can occur in both feet or just one, and the condition can range from mild to severe.
Clubfoot is not a painful condition, but it does require prompt treatment to enable a full range of physical activities later in life. Although the cause is unknown, there are certain known risk factors such as smoking during pregnancy, a smaller or tighter womb and a family history. Left untreated, it can lead to deformity, pain and limited movement.
How is it treated?
Clubfoot can now be treated without surgery using the Ponseti method of stretching and casting. As the newborn joints and tendons are very flexible, they respond well to this type of treatment:
- The baby’s feet are positioned and held in a cast for one week
- Each subsequent week, the baby’s feet are repositioned and held again – this is repeated for several months
- As the feet realign, most babies will need a minor procedure to lengthen the Achilles tendon
- Special shoes and braces are worn for the next 3 months, and ongoing at night for up to 3 years.
In the event the Ponseti method is unsuccessful, your doctor may suggest more invasive surgery.
How long does it last?
Clubfoot won’t go away on its own. But by using a series of stretches and gentle adjustments shortly after birth, most children grow up to lead full and active lives. Although the Ponseti treatment is considered highly effective and the gold standard approach to clubfoot treatment, it can take up to 4-5 years to reach completion.
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