By Brett D. Sachs, DPM
A baby’s birth is one of life’s most joyous occasions, but when an abnormality is present it is only normal to feel concerned. If your bouncing bundle of joy has a twisted foot or feet, this condition is known as clubfoot and can range from mild to severe. However, you can take comfort in knowing that the experts at Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle Center can treat your baby’s abnormality, and he or she will be able to grow up doing all of the things kids love to do.
Why the Twisting and Turning?
This inward turning of the foot occurs due to the connective muscles and tendons being short and tight. As a result, the foot is pulled and twisted at an angle resembling the head of a golf club, thus the condition’s name. The cause is unknown but it has been speculated that it may be the result of the baby’s position in the womb, and quite possibly a serious side effect of smoking while pregnant. It can also be associated with other birth defects such as spina bifida, so prompt diagnosis and treatment are essential for proper care.
Other significant signs to watch for include underdeveloped calf muscles and the affected foot being shorter than the other.
Although the condition looks unsettling, rest assured that it is not painful to your child. However, to avoid a long-term disability, treatment should begin as soon as the first or second week after birth. Your newborn’s bones are flexible enough at this time to be gradually repositioned. The goal is to improve the function of your child’s foot prior to he or she learning to walk. There are several different methods to do this:
Ponseti method – This is the most common treatment option. The baby’s foot is moved into the correct position, then a cast is placed on it to keep it in place. Over the course of several months, your child’s foot will be repositioned and recast once or twice a week. Toward the end of this gradual process, a minor surgical procedure will lengthen the Achilles tendon. To maintain alignment, daily stretching exercises will need to be performed, and special shoes and braces worn. Diligently following the wear instructions is vital to success. Often this means full time for three months, then up to another three years at night.
French Method – also known as the functional or physiotherapy method, this technique involves working with a physical therapist to move the foot daily and hold it in position with adhesive tape. It may also entail using a machine to move the baby’s foot continuously while sleeping. Daily stretches and the use of night splints will keep the foot in alignment until your child is ready to walk.
Surgery – In severe cases that do not respond to these conservative methods, surgery may be necessary to lengthen tendons and help ease your child’s foot back into its correct position. A cast will need to be worn afterward for up to two months, and a brace for a year after that to prevent clubfoot from reverting back.
Peace of Mind
The good news is that no matter how severe the condition is or what treatment method you choose, your child’s foot can be restored to near-normal function if treatment is started at the first signs of clubfoot. If you notice your baby has the tell-tale symptom of a twisted foot, call us today at (303) 423-2520 to reach our offices in Wheat Ridge, Golden, Granby, or Evergreen, CO.
With patience and the help of our expert staff, your child can run and jump and play as well as wear normal shoes, so don’t delay.