Birth Defects Other Clubfoot

Clubfoot is a congenital structural defect affecting one or both feet. Since the affected foot is twisted into an abnormal position, the deformity is visible at with fetal ultrasound imaging and at birth. Congenital clubfoot is treated using surgical or non-surgical procedures, depending on its severity.

What is Clubfoot?

When a child has clubfoot, the affected foot is turned down and inward, with the toes pointing toward the opposite leg. The foot may be turned so much that it appears upside down.

The joints and tendons in the foot and ankle are malformed in affected children. Some are short and tight, while others are stretched. These malformations hold the foot in the abnormal position characteristic of clubfoot. Calf muscles on the affected side may also be underdeveloped.

Clubfoot occurs during fetal development. It may present as part of a syndrome or as one of a group of birth defects, including neural tube defects affecting the central nervous system.

Clubfoot Treatment Options

A newborn does not outgrow clubfoot. Untreated clubfoot results in an abnormal gait, which can affect other body parts such as the legs and hips. However, with appropriate treatment, most children experience improved positioning and functional use of the foot. In some cases, they may continue to experience stiffness or limping after treatment of congenital clubfoot.

The Ponseti treatment is a minimally invasive treatment for clubfoot. It involves stretching and casting the affected foot to bring it into the correct position. In most cases, the casting is followed by an Achilles tenotomy, used to loosen the Achilles tendon. After this treatment, the infant wears a brace full-time for several months, and then while sleeping for several more years. This is necessary to ensure the correct development of the foot and to prevent it from returning to its original position.

Surgery for Clubfoot

Some children with severe cases of clubfoot may require surgery. A surgeon lengthens any tight tendons in the baby’s foot so that it may be stretched into a more natural position.

Children treated surgically must also wear a brace to prevent the foot from returning to the original, abnormal position. The most severe cases of clubfoot must be continually monitored by a doctor as the child continues to grow.

Resources

ePodiatry. (n.d.). Clubfoot (talipes).Retrieved April 27, 2010, from: http://www.epodiatry.com/clubfoot.htm.

Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Clubfoot. Retrieved April 26, 2010, from: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/clubfoot/DS00814.