Clubfoot is a very serious congenital deformity, in which one or both feet are turned sideways (or even upward!) at birth. Although this condition is not painful for a newborn, it is extremely important that they receive treatment right away to correct the problem before baby is ready to stand and walk.
Broadly speaking, clubfoot can be approached conservatively or surgically. Conservative treatment requires a lot of time and personal commitment from parents and caregivers, but it also tends to produce the best long-term results for the child.
The most common conservative approached practiced today is called the Ponsetti method, and can be broken into essentially three phases:
- First, once per week over a period of about two months, a doctor carefully stretches the clubfoot into a more natural position and places it in a cast. Each week, the cast comes off and the process repeats.
- Next, the doctor performs a small surgical procedure to release the Achilles tendon—although no stitches are required, baby will need another cast and about three weeks to heal.
- Finally, the child will need to wear a brace on and off for up to 3-4 years to prevent the deformity from coming back. At first he or she will need the brace close to full time, but that will gradually scale back to only during night and naptime.
Although less common, the French method is also employed by some doctors. Rather than casting, it demands daily stretching and manipulation, taping, and splinting of the feet until the child is 2 to 3 years old.
Surgery is generally reserved only in cases where conservative care is not fully successful for one reason or another. Surgery tends to leave the feet stiffer than they would have otherwise been from conservative care methods, with more extensive surgeries posing greater risk. That is why most doctors will strongly push for conservative methods for as long as possible and for as much as they can achieve—even if they only achieve partial success, the long-term outlook is usually better than opting for surgery first.
If you have any concerns about the health of your child’s feet, please make an appointment with Dr. Keith McSpadden and North Austin Foot & Ankle Institute today. You can request one online by filling out our contact form, or call us directly at (512) 593-2949.