What is club foot?
A baby with club foot has a foot that resembles the end of a golf club (hence its name). The heel points down and the front half of the foot turns in. The Achilles tendon (tissue that connects the heel to the muscles of the lower leg) is very tight, and calf muscles are smaller than normal. Club foot affects the bones, blood vessels, muscles and tendons in the child’s foot. It can happen in one or both feet. If the infant has bilateral club feet (both feet are involved), the soles of the feet face each other.
This condition affects one in every 1,000 births. It affects boys 50 percent more often than girls.
You might be worried that if your baby is diagnosed with this defect, he or she might never be able play like other kids. But in the majority of cases, this won’t be a problem. With corrective treatment soon after your baby is born, it is likely that your child will be running and walking without issues.
How is the condition diagnosed?
The condition can be diagnosed by ultrasound during pregnancy or after the baby’s born. If it’s detected by an ultrasound, the majority of mothers will find out about this defect around week 24 of pregnancy.
How is club foot treated?
After your baby is born, he or she will be evaluated by a pediatric orthopedic specialist who will decide on a treatment plan. Treatment most commonly consists of a series of castings for the newborn with frequent cast changes to gradually correct the deformity. This takes about two to three months for stretching and casting and then a few more years for bracing. The purpose of this treatment is to manipulate the foot/feet into the correct position.
Sometimes surgery is part of the treatment plan. Surgery can take place as early as three months after your child is born. If both feet are involved, usually the surgery can be done at the same time. After surgery, a custom-fit cast or brace will be made for your baby. Even though the foot is inside the cast, the foot will still be able to grow.
How will club foot affect my baby during and after treatment or surgery?
Most babies can have their issue corrected without surgery, but surgery for babies with club foot has proven to be successful, too. About 30 percent of kids born with club foot will need surgery again later in life if the problem recurs. In some cases, physical therapy may be recommended as well.
With the right treatment plan, most children with club food will go into adulthood with few issues.