Clubfoot is a deformity of the foot in infants. The condition is usually present from birth. This happens when the tissues linking the muscles to the tendons are shorter than usual, as a result of which the infant’s foot appears twisted and out of shape. The condition can be mild or severe, depending on the symptoms. Often times, babies who are born with clubfoot have it in both the legs.
How to identify if your child has clubfoot?
Since the condition is present from birth, the symptoms are also easily observable. Identifying the following signs can help detect if your child is born with clubfoot-
• A foot that turns downward and inward and toes that point towards the opposite foot
• The affected foot may appear half an inch shorter than the normal foot size
• The heel of the affected foot may be smaller in size than it normally should be
• The calf muscle on the affected leg will be underdeveloped (appear slightly smaller)
• If the condition is severe, the foot may be twisted upside down
Despite its unusual shape, clubfoot does not cause pain or discomfort. The doctor will most likely notice the symptoms after the infant’s birth. He/she will recommend appropriate treatment of the condition, or refer to an orthopaedic who specializes in muscle and bone ailments.
What is the treatment of clubfoot?
Clubfoot is curable so parents need not worry about their child living with a lifelong deformity.
Depending on the severity of the condition, the orthopaedic will either use devices, resort to stretching methods, or will recommend surgery.
• Ponseti Method (stretching and casting) - It is the standard treatment worldover. It starts at birth or anytime within two weeks of age and has best results in younger kids. It involves stretching the clubfoot and casting it in correct position several times over the months to restore the foot shape.
• French Functional Method (stretching and taping) - The doctor will stretch the affected foot and tape it in position several times over a couple of months to realign the shape. It, however, has very limites following.
• Surgery - Surgeries may be needed in older neglected kids or adults. The surgeon performs a surgical procedure (Achilles tenotomy) to lengthen the tendon of the clubfoot and realigns the joints and bones. Following the surgery, the child will need to be in a cast for about 2 months. Further, to prevent the recurrence of the condition, the child will be advised to wear braces for a year at least.
• Devices - They are adjunctive maintenance devices which are used by doctors in treatment of clubfoot. They are applied to the body to stabilize and limit or protect the movement of the damaged joint.
Parents should seek medical intervention if their baby is born with clubfoot. If the condition is not treated early, the child may face difficulty walking, or may even develop other disorders affecting the joints, like arthritis.