Clubfoot is a term used to describe a congenital deformity that affects the bone, joint, and tendon of one or both feet. It is seen in approximately one in every 1,000 births worldwide, with males being more commonly affected than females. While it is a non-painful condition, it must be treated early to prevent lifelong disability.
The feet of infants with clubfoot point inward and downwards. The precise cause of clubfoot is unknown, but it occurs twice as frequently in infants with a family history of the condition. It is essential to distinguish clubfoot from less severe infant foot problems, as a misdiagnosis can delay appropriate treatment, causing permanent disability.
The primary goal of treating clubfoot is to achieve pain-free, stable feet that function well by the time the infant can walk. The process of reshaping the bones to their appropriate alignment is called serial casting. The doctor cautiously stretches the child’s clubfoot towards the correct position before casting the legs and feet to hold the newly stretched foot in place. The casting process is repeated every week, with gentle yet progressive stretching.
Casting may last for up to 12 weeks, and X-rays help to assess the progress correctly. Once the proper alignment is achieved, the child is fitted with special shoes or braces to maintain the correct foot position. They may need to wear these shoes or braces for up to a year or longer, as the muscles in the clubfoot often try to pull the foot back into its previous position. This rebound effect is common among two to three-year-olds but can continue until the age of seven.
Fortunately, clubfoot has an excellent prognosis, and over 90% of children treated by experienced physicians will have well-functioning feet after the casting process. Early treatment and maintenance therapy provide the best chance for success, as more severe cases may require surgical intervention.
Therefore, if you experience any foot deformity in your newborn, do not hesitate to contact a trained medical practitioner like Dr Gilbert Huang DPM, who is an expert in treating foot and ankle conditions. With prompt treatment, you can ensure that your child grows up with healthy, pain-free feet.