Your child’s feet play an important role in physical mobility as well as social activity. Clubfoot is a condition that can negatively a child’s impact quality of life. At Dell Children’s Medical Center’s pediatric orthopedic clinic, we believe every child should be given the best chance possible to live a full and active life. Our pediatric orthopedic doctors work together to help ensure you get the best treatment options for your child’s clubfoot condition.

Wellness and Prevention

No one fully understands why clubfoot occurs in infants. Pediatric orthopedic surgeons, however, believe that there are some possible causes. The first is genetics. If you or your partner have a history of clubfoot in your family, the chances that your child will have it go up. Smoking and using recreational drugs during pregnancy are also suspected to increase chances of clubfoot occurring. Lastly, doctors also suspect that the condition may be related to more serious conditions, such as spina bifida. In order to better understand or lower the chances of your child getting clubfoot, here are some steps you can take:

  • Visit a genetic counselor to talk about the chances of your child having genetic clubfoot before having a baby.
  • Avoid smoking or taking any recreational drugs while pregnant. This can not only cause clubfoot but other serious conditions as well.
  • Schedule regular prenatal visits to monitor your baby’s development

Diagnosis

Because clubfoot develops while the baby is still in the womb, there’s little orthopedic doctors can do to diagnose the condition and determine its severity before birth. In most cases, your doctor will examine your baby at birth, when clubfoot will be diagnosed.

When your baby has clubfoot, their foot (or feet) will be turned inwards at the ankle. It may be a gentle curve or in cases of severe clubfoot, the foot will be turned completely over with the top of the foot facing downwards. While this is usually enough to diagnose clubfoot, in severe cases, the doctor may order some x-rays to determine the extent of deformity within the foot. This is not a common occurrence, however, as it tends to be difficult to capture the infant’s bone structure well due to the premature nature of the foot bones (low ossification).

Treatments

Out of every 1000 live births, 1 will be born with clubfoot. This makes clubfoot in the United States a relatively common occurrence. If your child has been diagnosed with clubfoot, it’s important to start treatment immediately while the child’s bones, tendons and joints are still flexible.

There are two treatments available for clubfoot: The Ponseti method and surgery.

Ponseti Method

The Ponseti Method is non-invasive treatment that uses the flexibility of your infant’s body structures to correct clubfoot. Using a cast and some stretching exercises, your orthopedic doctor will attempt to manually correct the affected foot by straightened it out and putting it in a cast every few days to allow the bones to grow normally. This is the most common treatment for clubfoot.

Surgery

If your child’s clubfoot is severe and is not responding to other treatments, surgery may be required. Your orthopedic surgeon will lengthen some foot tendons to allow your child’s foot to get a better posture. The foot will then have to be in a cast for two months to allow the tendons to heal. You child will also need to wear a brace for some time after this to avoid the recurrence of clubfoot.

Aftercare

Clubfoot aftercare can last up to a couple of years depending on the severity of the condition and the treatments undertaken. Your child may need to wear specialized footwear for a few years until their foot reaches maturity. There may also be a brace they will need to wear constantly for three months and nights only for three years.

For children who had clubfoot surgery, they will be in a cast for a few months. You will also have to ensure they avoid strenuous activities for some time to allow the tendons to heal. They may need to wear specialized footwear to keep the condition from coming back.

Clubfoot sometimes does not go away completely but it can be treated by a pediatric orthopedic specialist to a point where it does not affect your child’s mobility or self-esteem, allowing them to live a normal life.