Clubfoot – the most common birth defect of the lower limb

For most people the birth of their child is an exciting, joyful event. Unfortunately, this is not the case for everyone. Sometimes something goes wrong. Clubfoot (Talipes) is a birth defect which affects the foot (in some cases both feet). It’s not all bad news though, because medical research over the past several years has shed light on new clubfoot treatments that can help eliminate, or at least minimize, this somewhat common birth defect.

About 20 – 30 years ago, if a child was born with a clubfoot, it seemed like the end of the world, and the child’s future looked very gray. Treatment for clubfoot wasn’t readily available and in a lot of cases, people reverted to drastic measures such as amputation of the affected limb. Luckily times have changed and medicine has advanced a great deal. The treatment of clubfoot is now a lot less invasive, and in most cases surgery is not even necessary.

Clubfoot is the most common birth defect of the lower extremities and appears in 1 in every 1000 live births in America. The foot is twisted inward and down. Clubfoot is more prevalent in boys than girls. There are different degrees of severity of the clubfoot.

In most cases a clubfoot is corrected by the Ponseti method. This method was named after its creator, Dr Ignacio Ponseti. The Ponseti method involves 4 – 6 castings (in most cases). In more severe cases, 8 – 10 castings may be needed. The childs foot is manipulated very gently and then casted for 1 week. Every week the cast is changed and the foot is manipulated in a different way, thereby stretching another part of the foot. A brace (splint) needs to be worn permanently for 3 months after the initial castings. Thereafter the brace is worn for another 1 to 4 years, depending on the severity of the clubfoot. In most cases the brace only needs to be worn at night.

In the most severe cases, surgery is the only option. This is usually done if the child has other health issues as well. The surgery involves releasing the tight tendons in the front and back of the foot and then lengthening them. In some cases metal pins are used to keep the bones in place, these are removed after 3 weeks. After the initial surgery, the leg is casted for 3 months. After the cast is removed, a brace usually needs to be worn for anything from 6 to 12 months.

With the advancement in medical technology, patients with a clubfoot defect can now live a normal, healthy life. In most cases the casual observer will not even know that the adult patient had a clubfoot at birth.

10 Responses to Clubfoot – the most common birth defect of the lower limb
  1. Soma

    I’ve seen a lot of women give birth to babies with clubfoot but don’t really give corrective treatment much notice. I’d like to share this article with them (with your permission, of course) to educate them on the process. Thank you. 🙂

  2. Christina Crowe

    I’m glad most treatments for clubfoot don’t have to result in surgery. Surgery must be hard on the baby. Thanks for the info!

  3. Dominic

    Clubfoot or Talipes Equinovarus, can be treated without any casts and involves manipulation with a specific splint for 1-2 weeks overcorrecting, strapping and usually needs for the mother to do stretching at home as well.

    There are many theories to its cause, one being the size of the mothers uterus and the positioning of the baby.

  4. Lawn

    Well i love the bad girls club on oxygen. and i was wondering which season you think it’s better. season 2 or 3. I think 3 because i haven’t seen the 2nd one. 😛 haha what do you think?

  5. Rebecca

    does anyone know what common birth defects there were 30 years ago to a baby born at 27 weeks. any answers or help in directing me the right direction would be greatly appreciated

  6. Joseph

    My sion was born with a club foot 38 years ago. He was diagnoed and cased within hours of his birth. The above procedures of recasting and then splints and then spring wire braced shoes were used for three years. Today he leaves a healthy normal life, plays sports, and has a brillant mind. Graduated from MIT, played basketball, and now works for a major financial firm in NYC. The only lasting effect is a slight atrophy of the calf muscle of the leg, but exercise dimishes this. So for any parent out there, be aware that this is not the end of one’s life. It is easily corrected and the child goes on to have a happy normal life.

  7. robert

    will casting for club feet work?

    • admin

      Yes, casting is an effective treatment when done early in infancy. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, casts should be changed weekly for best results. This non-surgical treatment for club foot provides positive results within just 2 to 3 months.

  8. Alyssa Gomez

    I feel really bad for people who gives birth to babies that ends up having clubfoot… 🙁

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