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When a baby is born, the nurses and doctors immediately perform a test called the Apgar score to detect any conditions that might need immediate medical care. Later, they look for other problems that may need to be addressed in order for the child to have a normal life. One such problem is a condition called clubfoot. About 1 in 1,000 babies will have this deformity at birth, but thankfully it’s not painful for the little one and can be corrected.

 

An Unusual Foot Position

Clubfoot—also known as talipes equinovarus—refers to a variety of ways the foot can be misaligned at birth. The exact cause is unknown but genetics seem to play a role. If you have a family member with this deformity, it is more likely your newborn will develop it as well. Environmental factors may also play a part, as can your baby’s position in the womb.

Your newborn may have one or more of the following: a foot or heel that is smaller than the other; a foot that points down or toward the other foot; or a foot that is twisted so the bottom turns up toward the body. Looking at the feet, you may think your baby would be in pain, but a newborn’s feet are very malleable, with soft bones, so their little feet don’t hurt at this point. If it is not treated, however, the baby’s feet and legs will eventually harden into this position, making it impossible for them to walk normally and without pain.

Correcting Clubfoot

With the advance of ultrasounds during pregnancy, this condition can often be discovered before birth so proper medical care can be lined up ahead of time. But what does proper medical care involve? Decades ago, surgery was seen as the only way to cure this foot deformity. Unfortunately, surgery left scar tissue and often caused stiffness, pain, and arthritis in the affected foot. Around the 1950s, Dr. Ignacio Ponseti at the University of Iowa studied the problem and developed the non-surgical treatment that bears his name.

The Ponseti method is a series of manipulations and casting that can gradually move your baby’s foot into the correct position. It is started a week or two after birth and many times the feet can be corrected within six to eight weeks. Acting while the ligaments, tendons, and bones are still soft, the doctor gently stretches the tendons and applies a cast to hold them in position. This stretching and casting is repeated each week until the baby’s feet are correctly aligned.  

In rare cases, serial casting may not be able to correct the problem. Surgery may become the best option to adjust the length of tendons and ligaments and line up the bones. Your baby will still need to wear a cast for a while after surgery, as well.

Go to the Ones Who Know Feet

The Ponseti method is extremely effective—if done correctly. That is why you should contact experts like Dr. Andrew Irvine who are knowledgeable about the structures and movements of the feet. At Axis Foot & Ankle Clinic, we understand feet. As parents, you are part of the team that will help your baby develop healthy feet and be able to walk and run normally. Your role is to faithfully apply the braces to hold the foot in position after casting is complete. Without diligent bracing, your child’s foot will tend to revert to its birth position. We will let you know when the bones have hardened sufficiently to discontinue bracing.

If your baby is diagnosed with clubfoot, contact Axis Foot & Ankle Clinic right away for expert care. There are three offices in the Calgary area: Pacific Place Medical Clinic, Deer Valley Family Medical Clinic, and Scenic Acres Medical Clinic. Call (403) 477-3338 today for an appointment, or request one on our website. Your child’s feet are important to their happiness.

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