Learn About Clubfoot

What is Clubfoot?

Clubfoot, or talipes equinovarus, is a treatable birth defect that affects approximately 150,000-200,000 children each year.   When clubfoot occurs the foot is twisted inward and down, and this condition occurs during development in the womb. Physicians have observed that fetuses that develop clubfoot start with a normal foot and then the foot begins to turn inward around the third month. Most children born with clubfoot are not missing any bones, muscles, or connective tissue. It is a congenital condition, meaning that when it occurs it is always present at birth. It is one of the most common congenital deformities. One or both feet may be affected and the affected feet can range from relatively flexible to stiff and rigid. The condition is not painful for the new born, though when a child gets to walking age, walking with an uncorrected clubfoot can be very painful and difficult, if not impossible.

When will you know?

Parents will know at birth if their child has clubfoot because the foot will be twisted inward. Some cases are diagnosed during a routine ultrasound. If you are wondering if your child has clubfoot, contact a physician who has experience in diagnosing this condition (not all pediatricians know how to diagnose clubfoot).

Causes:

Researchers do not know exactly what causes clubfoot. However, if either of the parents were born with clubfoot, their children are more likely to have it.

Treatment:

For years clubfoot has been treated by casting and/or surgery. Over fifty years ago Dr. Ignacio Ponseti developed a method for treating clubfoot that requires the use of over the knee casts and special protocol. The method consists of using a series of casts, gentle manipulation and the use of a special brace. This treatment is 95+% effective and it is the most cost effective treatment with no side effects. Treatment should start soon after birth.

Older Children:

Recent research has shown that the Ponseti Method is effective for children as old as ten, even in cases of failed surgery. Read the complete study here.  

Clubfoot in developing countries:

Clubfoot is a serious problem in many developing countries. The majority of cases of clubfoot occur in these areas, about 80%, and there are high incidences of neglected clubfoot. Neglected clubfoot limits the prospects of those living in developing countries as they often are unable to walk without great pain and do not have many job opportunities or the ability to carry out many daily tasks. The Ponseti Method is very cost effective and various healthcare providers can perform the treatment making the Ponseti method a practical option for eradicating clubfoot around the world.

For more information

There are tutorials available on the US National Library of Health Medicine about clubfoot and the Ponseti method of treatment.  You can see them here.

Ponseti International Association, in collaboration with the Patient Education Institute, created easy to understand interactive educational tutorials about clubfoot for patients, parents, and providers. Click on the following links to learn more about clubfoot.  For tutorial information click here, for video descriptions click here, and for PDF click here. For tutorial in Spanish click here. For PDF in Spanish click here.

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