Clubfoot is a relatively common birth defect that appears in approximately one in 1,000 babies. With clubfoot, an infant’s foot is twisted out of shape, often at a sharp angle to the ankle like the head of a golf club. Clubfoot can appear in one or both feet and will hinder development as he or she approaches the walking stage. While clubfoot is usually a birth defect with no known origin, there is evidence that smoking during pregnancy can be related.
Symptoms of Clubfeet in Babies
Most often, clubfoot rotates the top of your baby’s foot downward and inward, increasing the arch and turning the heel inward. The clubfoot may be so severely twisted it actually looks as if it’s upside-down. In addition, the calf muscles in the clubfoot leg are usually underdeveloped, and the affected clubfoot may be up to .4 inches shorter than the other foot. Despite how scary it can look, however, clubfoot itself doesn’t cause any discomfort or pain.
Diagnosing Clubfoot and Providing the Right Treatment
Your pediatric orthopedist will be able to make his or her clubfoot diagnosis based on observation. Sometimes, X-rays will be taken to determine the full impact of your baby’s clubfoot. Typical treatment can include:
- Stretching and casting (Ponseti method): Your baby’s physician will gently manipulate the clubfoot into a more normal position and apply a cast. The cast is reapplied every couple of weeks until the optimal position is achieved. Then, stretching, a brace or special shoes will be recommended for up to three years to maintain the position.
- Stretching and taping (French method): This clubfoot treatment involves stretching the clubfoot into position on a daily basis and using adhesive tape to hold it there until the next day. Gradually, these treatments will diminish to three times a week for six months. Once correct position is attained, daily exercises and night splints will need to be used to maintain it until your baby is walking age.
- Surgery: If your baby’s clubfoot is severe or other methods do not correct it, your physician may recommend surgery to stretch out the tendons in the foot. Afterward, your baby will need to wear a brace for about a year.
Unfortunately, not every clubfoot can be fully corrected. But in most cases, if clubfoot treatment is applied right from the beginning, chances are good your child will be able to wear normal shoes and lead a full, active life.