Clubfoot refers to a birth defect in which the foot is twisted out of shape or position. Although it doesn’t cause any pain, if left untreated, it might make a child to limp while walking. One or both feet can be affected. A male is twice more likely to have clubfoot than a female. Also, it is genetically transferred. Hence, if either of the parents had clubfoot, the baby is also highly likely to have it.
Clubfoot can be easily detected when a baby is born. A pediatric or orthopedic surgeon can even detect it in the latter stages of pregnancy as well, using ultrasonography.
- The foot bends downward and the toes are curled inwards
- The foot may look upside down or sideways in extreme cases
- The arch of the foot becomes more pronounced
- Underdeveloped calf muscles
- The affected foot might be shorter than a normal foot by half an inch
Clubfoot happens when the tendons and muscles present in the foot are shorter than usual. Although doctors can’t predict why it is caused and there is no guarantee that a baby won’t have clubfoot at birth, it can still be prevented.
Smoking and taking illegal drugs during pregnancy can significantly increase a baby’s chance to be born with it. In rare cases, babies born with other conditions like spina bifida can have it. Also, if amniotic fluid, which surrounds the baby in its mother’s womb is not enough, the chances of the baby being born with clubfoot increases.
Clubfoot does not cure on its own. Earlier, it was cured with surgery. But now, it can be cured using casts, stretching of the foot and slow movements. This method is known as a Ponseti method. A surgeon in Delhi trained in the Ponseti method can treat your baby.
The doctor begins the treatment soon after the baby is born. This is done to ensure there is no delay in the treatment since a baby doesn’t use its feet until it can learn how to stand or walk.
The Ponseti method has two phases- casting and bracing
- Casting– The tendons of a baby are easily stretchable, so doctors can turn it in the correct direction very easily. Initially, a cast is put just after a week or two since the birth of the baby. Then, once every week, the baby needs to go back to the surgeon for stretching and gentle movement of the foot and for placing a new cast. 5 to 7 casts are more or less enough to correct the problem.
- Bracing– After the foot is set right, the orthopedic surgeon replaces the cast with a brace. It is a special kind of shoe or boot with a bar at each end of the shoe. It prevents the twisting of the foot to its original shape. The baby needs to wear the brace for 3 months continuously. For the next few years, the child needs to wear it during sleeping.
If it doesn’t cure by casting, surgery remains the only option. It takes a few years for it to cure permanently. But in the end, your baby can walk and run freely and will not have to suffer from any physical or emotional distress. So it is better to get it cured.