Clubfoot is a relatively common birth defect, affecting about 1 in every 1000 children. Despite its rather frightening appearance, the good news is that, for most kids, the condition is not painful (as long as it’s corrected before they learn to walk), and non-invasive procedures—primarily the Ponsetti method—are able to correct the problem without surgery. However, in perhaps 10 percent of cases, surgery is required for little ones who do not respond sufficiently to conservative therapy.
It’s important to note that we strongly encourage fully exhausting conservative treatment first. If the Ponsetti method can at least produce a partial correction, then the eventual surgery may not need to be as extensive. More significant surgeries are more likely to leave lasting side-effects.
In relatively minor cases, surgery for clubfoot focuses primarily on the tendons and joints most directly contributing to the deformity. Most commonly, this involves “releasing” or lengthening the Achilles tendon, as well as transferring the anterior tibial tendon (which runs from the front of the ankle to the midfoot and helps in flexing the foot upward).
More serious cases may require extensive reconstructive surgery. In such situations, multiple soft tissues (tendons, ligaments, etc.) may be released, lengthened, or transferred throughout the foot. Sometimes bones may need to be cut as well, particularly in older children.
After surgery is complete, metal hardware and a full-length leg cast are employed to provide stability to the feet and legs during the healing process. The cast may have to be changed multiple times, especially for rapidly growing kids. Finally, special shoes or braces may be recommended for several more months (up to 1 year) to prevent recurrence.
The vast majority of kids who undergo surgery for clubfoot will be able to run, play, and engage fully in normal activities. However, it is often the case that affected feet and calves will permanently remain a little smaller and stiffer than they would have otherwise. That’s why it’s important to have your little one engage in regular physical therapy exercises.
While we hope that surgery won’t be necessary to correct your child’s clubfoot, you can trust that the experts at Family Foot and Ankle Center in Greater Cincinnati have the training and experience to pursue a treatment course that will give your little one the best possible outcome. To schedule an appointment, contact us online or call 888-689-3317.