Clubfoot is an abnormal inward curving of the foot. It affects a child's foot and ankle, causing the heel and toes to twist inward. The foot, calf, and leg are smaller and shorter than normal. Clubfoot
is not painful and can be corrected with treatment.
Clubfoot is very common; approximately 1 in every 1,000 newborns has clubfoot. Of those, 1 in 3 have clubfoot in both feet and 2 out of 3 are boys. Clubfoot is twice as likely if the baby's parents or their other children also have it. Less severe infant foot problems also are common
and sometimes mislabeled as clubfoot.
Clubfoot treatment begins right away to correct the alignment of the foot. The goal is to make your newborn's clubfoot (or feet) functional, painless, and stable by the time he or she is ready to walk.
Your foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon will start
treatment by gently stretching your child's clubfoot toward the correct position. They put on a cast to hold it in place. One week later, they take off the cast and stretch your baby's foot a little more, always working the foot toward the correct
position. They then apply a new cast. One week later you will return to the surgeon and they will do the same thing again.
This process, called serial casting, slowly moves the bones in the clubfoot into proper alignment. Your surgeon
uses X-rays to check the progress. Casting generally repeats for 6-12 weeks and may take up to four months. (Note: Anytime your baby wears a cast, watch for changes in skin color or temperature that may indicate problems with circulation.)
In about half of cases, the child's clubfoot straightens with casting. If it does, he or she will be fitted with special shoes or braces to keep the foot straight. These holding devices usually are needed until your child has been walking for a year or
Muscles often try to return to the clubfoot position. This is common when your child is 2-3 years old but may continue up to age 7.
Sometimes stretching, casting, and bracing are not enough to correct your baby's clubfoot. In these cases, your surgeon may recommend surgery to adjust the tendons, ligaments, and joints in the foot and ankle. This usually is done when your child is 6-12 months old. Surgery corrects
all of your baby's clubfoot deformities at the same time. After surgery, another cast holds the clubfoot together while it heals. Since it's still possible for the muscles in your child's foot to try to return to the clubfoot position, special shoes
or braces likely will be used for a year or more after surgery.
With treatment, your child should have a nearly normal foot. He or she can usually run and play without pain and can wear normal shoes. You can expect the corrected clubfoot to stay 1-1.5 sizes smaller
and be somewhat less mobile than the normal foot. The calf muscles in your child's clubfoot leg also will be smaller.
What happens if I do not treat my child's clubfoot?
If your child's clubfoot is not corrected, he or she could have difficulty walking and functioning normally.
Contributors/Reviewers: Sudheer Reddy, MD; Hui Zhang, MD
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