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Can Clubfoot Be Corrected?

A Gillette patient looks at his brace.

When parents receive a diagnosis for their child, the fear of the unknown can be scary. Fortunately, the providers are Gillette Children’s are here to answer all of your questions. Clubfoot, for example, is one of the most popular conditions we treat. The good news is that with the right care, clubfoot can be corrected completely. 

Clubfoot occurs when the tendons that connect the leg muscles to the foot are short and tight. This can cause the ankle to point downward, the bottom of the foot to face inward, or the toes to pull in toward the inner leg. In some cases, one foot is affected. In others, both feet are affected.  

The cause of clubfoot is still debated among experts. Typically, most families show no clear history of clubfoot. Some believe it develops because of an abnormally shaped ankle. Others think it has to do with an abnormal nerve function in the leg. There is no definitive answer just yet. 

Clubfoot could be associated with cerebral palsy, spina bifida, torticollis or Development Dysplasia of the Hip (DDH). At Gillette, we treat all types of complex conditions and are experts in the field. This means that if your child is being treated for cerebral palsy and clubfoot, they don’t have to go somewhere else for treatment. Everything can be done in one place.

A Gillette patient looks at his leg braces.

From The Ponseti Method To Surgery, Your Child Has Options 

While clubfoot cannot be prevented, the sooner treatment begins, the better. If left untreated, it can cause a child to develop an unusual walking pattern. In general, a child will place their weight on the side of their foot, rather than on the sole. This can result in painful calluses and weakened calf muscles. When caught early enough, it may be possible to avoid these symptoms entirely. Most providers can diagnose about 80% of clubfoot cases by 24 weeks. After birth, a clinical exam can be performed within the first few weeks. 

When it comes to treatment, the Ponseti method is the most popular option. Gently and gradually, a child’s foot position is corrected by using a series of casts. Each part of the foot is addressed. A provider does this by softly stretching the foot and then applying a cast that will hold the foot in the newly corrected position. Slowly, the tendons and ligaments adapt to the new foot position. This is done over and over until the desired result is reached. 

On average, 5-8 casts are needed. Sometimes Achilles tendon lengthening is needed as well. This is a procedure that makes sure the Achilles tendon remains flexible as a child grows up. 

Studies show that the majority of kids treated with the Ponseti method have more flexible foot control and the benefits extend into adulthood. However, in cases where the Ponseti method is unsuccessful, there are surgical options. In these cases, clubfoot is treated through a surgery in which the tendons and joints surrounding the foot are lengthened and released. 

We Take A Team Approach To Provide Quality Care 

Physical therapy is a key part of healing. In keeping the muscles loose, it prevents them from reverting back to their original position. The OPS (orthotics, prosthetics, and seating) department at Gillette also plays a key role in treating clubfoot. Even after a child has successfully completed treatment, they will need to wear an orthosis or brace. The purpose of the brace is to make sure the foot remains at the correct angle. When, how often and how long this happens depends on the specifics of your child’s situation. 

At Gillette, our pediatric orthopedic specialists, physical therapists and orthotists work together to determine what will work best for your child. Clubfoot is something that must be monitored throughout one’s life, which is why it is especially important that you have all of your providers in one place. If your child has clubfoot, the nationally and internationally recognized specialists in pediatric orthopedics at Gillette will help create a treatment plan specific to your child’s needs. Our experts are here for you and your family every step of the way.

Casts for Gillette patients.