Overview and Facts about Clubfoot
Clubfoot is a congenital condition in which a baby’s foot and lower leg twist inward. It occurs in about one in every 1,000 births, and it can impact one or both feet and range from mild to severe. Clubfoot doesn’t cause the child any pain, but left untreated, it can interfere with walking and lead to limping.
Signs and Symptoms of Clubfoot
The most obvious sign and symptom of clubfoot is the physical deformity of the foot. Those with clubfoot have trouble placing their foot in a normal position. The toes might curl inward, and in severe cases, the foot might look like it’s upside down. In some cases, the individual also has a smaller foot or calf muscle.
Causes and Risk Factors of Clubfoot
Clubfoot develops when the tendons in a child’s ankle and foot are shorter than normal. The underlying cause of clubfoot is unknown, but it does seem to run in families. Minimal risk factors have been identified, including:
- Having a family history of clubfoot
- Being male
- Having an underlying genetic syndrome
- Having too little amniotic fluid in the womb
- Smoking cigarettes during pregnancy
- Illicit drug use during pregnancy
Tests and Diagnosis of Clubfoot
While the condition can often be diagnosed with a physical examination of the leg and foot, a doctor might use X-rays to determine the severity of the clubfoot. If a family history of clubfoot is present, an ultrasound during pregnancy might be able to identify the condition.
Treatment and Care for Clubfoot
Depending on the severity of the clubfoot, the doctor might use a cast to move the foot into a more natural position. The sooner this occurs after birth, the more successful the outcome. Every few weeks, the doctor removes the cast, stretches the foot and calf and recasts the foot into the proper position.
In most cases, significant improvement is apparent within five to 10 casts. The child must wear the final cast for three weeks and a special brace constantly for an additional three months. After that period, the child wears the brace at night for the next three years.
In some cases, the Achilles tendon tightens and requires a minor surgical procedure to improve its function.
If the clubfoot returns or doesn’t respond to the casting and bracing, the doctor might suggest surgical reconstruction of the foot.