Approximately 1 in every 1000 live births is affected by clubfoot around the world. If this deformity is not treated correctly on time, it can result in lifelong disability and pain. In fact, if treated right after birth, this condition does not even require surgery for correction. Lack of awareness is one of the leading causes why this easily correctable deformity progresses to permanent disability in so many children. In this article, we will explore this condition in further detail to understand it better.
What is clubfoot?
Clubfoot is a congenital deformity or birth defect of the foot/feet. In this condition, the infant’s foot is twisted out of shape, inward and upward. It is one of the most common deformities that occurs in the bones and joints in new-borns.
The degree of this condition can range from mild to severe and it can affect either one or both of the feet. This deformity occurs when the tendons connecting the leg muscles to the foot bones are short and tight. This causes the foot to twist inward.
What causes clubfoot?
Based on the cause, clubfoot is classified as idiopathic clubfoot or secondary clubfoot.
The exact cause of idiopathic clubfoot is still unclear. Research indicates that it is mostly due to a complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors, and not because of any single gene transmission.
Risk factors that increase the likelihood of a baby born with clubfoot include factors such as:
Secondary clubfoot on the other hand is seen in babies who have underlying genetic or neurological problems which cause muscle imbalance.
How is clubfoot diagnosed?
In some cases clubfoot can be detected in utero during pregnancy itself. It is generally detected in the 20 week ultrasound scan. However, most cases are diagnosed at birth after a clinical examination by a paediatrician or a paediatric orthopaedic surgeon. Check the Best Orthopaedic Doctors in Gurgaon.
Is clubfoot treatable?
Fortunately, clubfoot is completely correctable, provided it is treated on time. Sequential plasters are used to correct this deformity and prevent any long-term effects. In fact, children with this deformity may not face any functional limitation with the right treatment.
Starting the treatment as early as possible is key to ensuring maximum results. It is advised that the casting should start as early as 5-7 days after birth. Almost 95-98% of affected children can fully recover without any surgical correction. So, most parents need not be alarmed if they get a diagnosis of clubfoot during pregnancy or after birth.
It is important to remember that this condition only worsens with age. So early medical intervention is essential for the child to lead a healthy and normal life.
What is the most preferred treatment protocol for clubfoot?
Clubfoot is generally treated with non-surgical methods. The treatment protocol is a combination of initial stretching, weekly casting and bracing.
The treatment is started 5-7 days after birth as long as the baby is otherwise healthy. If the baby is premature or has very or extremely low birth weight, stretching is done till the time the baby is healthy enough for casting.
This process of gradual correction of the foot using weekly casting is called the “Ponseti technique”. Depending on the severity of the condition, it can span over a few months and also require the use of a special boot and bar.
The main aim of this treatment protocol is to achieve a functional, pain free foot that allows standing and walking with the sole of the foot flat on the ground. Starting the treatment early ensures faster and fuller recovery.
In rare cases, Ponseti technique might not yield the desired results. This can happen if the condition is extremely complex or caused by underlying conditions (secondary clubfoot). Surgical correction can be used to treat such cases.
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CK Birla Hospital, which has the best team of Orthopaedic Doctors in Delhi-NCR.