When a parent sees their child for the first time after birth, it’s natural for them to check for any visible problems. The doctor does this as well, making sure the baby is healthy and strong. Unfortunately, not every child is born without problems, and some problems, like clubfoot, are more visible than others.
If your child has clubfoot, you likely want to know exactly what you can do to fix the problem right now. Most parents feel this same anxiety, and it’s important to know all your options ahead of time. With the proper treatment, you can give your child a life free from difficulty walking and standing.
What is Clubfoot?
Children with clubfeet have a foot that is twisted out of its normal position. This twisting is caused by a shorter length in the tendons that connect your child’s leg and foot muscles to the associated bones.
Clubfoot happens fairly regularly, and it can be present in both feet just as much as in a single foot. Luckily, there are a ton of different treatment options for clubfoot, both surgical and non-surgical.
Since clubfoot is such a clearly visible condition, your child’s doctor can likely identify it with as little as a simple look. After visible diagnosis, the doctor may request additional X-rays to gauge the seriousness of the condition. X-rays can also help the doctor create a comprehensive treatment plan.
Clubfoot may also be diagnosed before birth through the use of an ultrasound. And while you won’t be able to do anything about the condition until after birth, the early diagnosis can help you get a head start on getting in touch with the appropriate doctors or specialists.
After diagnosis, your doctor will likely want create and start a treatment plan as soon as possible. Clubfoot can be treated at any time, but the treatment works much better if started early. This is because a newborn baby’s tendons are more flexible, making them more receptive to the treatment. For the most part, doctors start clubfoot treatment a week or two after birth.
Clubfoot can be treated in one of two ways:
Stretching and casting
Also known as the Ponseti method, this is the most common type of treatment for this medical condition. If your doctor uses the Ponseti method, they will first move your baby’s foot into the proper position and then enclose it in a cast. Then, once or twice a week for the next few months, your doctor will reposition and recast the foot as needed. At the end of the treatment, your doctor will likely perform a minor surgical procedure to lengthen the Achilles tendon.
Your responsibility after this process is to constantly stretch your child’s foot and use a brace or special shoes for several years to allow the foot the set permanently.
If the Ponseti method doesn’t work for your child’s clubfoot—or if the condition is too severe—surgery may be required. If your child needs surgery, you’ll need to find an orthopedic surgeon. During surgery, the doctor lengthens your child’s tendons and then places their foot into a cast for a year so the clubfoot doesn’t come back.