Clubfoot occurs when a foot and ankle are permanently twisted. In clubfoot, the ligaments and tendons that hold the muscles to the bones are too tight. This causes the tissues around the ankle to hold the foot in an abnormal position. Clubfoot resembles the head of a golf club, which is how it got its name. Clubfoot is a congenital deformity, which means you’re born with the condition.
Doctors usually diagnose it immediately after birth. It’s important to diagnose it as soon after birth as possible and start treatment. If you get treatment early, it’s more likely to be easier and successful.
How Is Clubfoot Repaired?
Sometimes nonsurgical treatments, such as casting, can correct clubfoot. Casting is a method for correcting clubfoot in the hopes of
avoiding surgery. The Ponseti method is the most common technique used. In this treatment, your doctor gently stretches your foot into a more normal position and secures it with a cast. Every few days or weeks, the foot’s position is stretched even more towards a normal position and the cast is replaced.
Over the course of six to eight weeks, clubfoot may be corrected without surgery. Casting is more successful for those with mild
clubfoot and those treated within the first two weeks of birth. Babies and older patients who have severe clubfoot may not respond to
casting. They need surgery to correct the condition.
During surgery, your surgeon lengthens the Achilles tendon near the heel and releases tissues elsewhere in the foot. They may also need to do a tendon transfer. These incisions loosen the tight ligaments and tendons so that your surgeon can then manipulate your foot into a normal position. A tendon transfer allows the foot to move in a more normal manner.
Older children and adults are often less flexible than babies and may require more extensive repair. It may require several surgeries. Your surgeon might need to cut into the bone to turn the foot. Cutting into the bone is called an osteotomy. In these cases, metal plates or screws may be used to hold the foot in the correct position. Once your foot and ankle are securely placed, your surgeon puts your leg in a cast.
Clubfoot repair is performed under a general anesthetic. You’re asleep and don’t feel pain during the procedure. Medication will help you manage the pain after surgery.