Clubfoot is a common birth defect where a baby’s foot is twisted out of shape. The tendons connecting the muscles to the bone are shorter than in a normally formed foot, which causes the twisting shape in the foot. The condition can be mild or severe, and about half of children born with clubfoot have it in both feet. Walking normally is made more difficult with clubfoot and most physicians recommend treatment immediately after birth.
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What are the causes of clubfoot
The exact cause of clubfoot is unknown. However, there are certain risk factors to be aware of:
- Family history
- Congenital condition
- Insufficient amniotic fluid during pregnancy
Clubfoot typically presents with the top of one foot twisted downward and inward. The arch of the affected foot increases while the heel turns inward. The affected foot can sometimes look as if it has been turned upside down. Other symptoms to look for include underdeveloped calf muscles in the affected leg and differences in the length of the feet (the affected foot will typically be shorter – as much as half an inch – than the other foot). Clubfoot does not cause any discomfort or pain.
Imaging & diagnostics
Physicians can usually spot clubfoot immediately after birth due to the distinctive shape of the affected foot. X-rays may be requested but are not necessary.
To learn more about the diagnosis of club foot during pregnancy at The Fetal Center, Click here ».
The most common treatment for clubfoot is stretching and casting (Ponseti method). The physician will move the foot into the correct position and then put a cast on it to hold it in place. The foot will be repositioned and recast once or twice a week for several months to ensure the foot remains in the correct position. At the end of the stretching and casting process, minor surgery will be performed to lengthen the Achilles tendon. Once the foot is realigned, continued stretching will be required along with shoes and braces to ensure proper positioning of the foot.
If the clubfoot is severe or does not respond to nonsurgical treatments, surgery may be recommended. An orthopedic surgeon will lengthen the tendons of the foot in order to position the foot correctly. A cast will be required after the surgery for up to 60 days, followed by a brace for the next year to prevent any recurrence of the clubfoot.
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