Does surgery "cure" clubfoot?
Surgery does not "cure" clubfoot. It improves the appearance of the foot but diminished the strength of the muscles in the foot and leg, causes stiffness in the second and third decade of life, if not earlier, limits the motions of the foot joints, and the foot becomes often painful at midlife. Surgery does not prevent the recurrence of the deformity in a number of cases. To my knowledge not followup studies of operated patients older than 16 years of age has been published to date. Therefore, orthopaedic surgeons are ignorant of the results of their surgeries.
Foot and ankle surgeons, however, who treat adult patients have noticed that those surgically treated for congenital clubfoot in infancy have weak, stiff and often very painful feet.
How long has clubfoot been treated in this manner?
Clubfeet have been treated with manipulations, bandages, braces, and plaster casts for centuries. The practice of heel-cord tenotomy was started in the middle of the 1 9th century; extensive ligament release surgery has become the fashion in the past 50 years.
When should a baby with clubfoot begin the Ponseti Method?
When a baby is born with clubfeet, an orthopaedic surgeon with expertise in the manipulation and plaster-cast method devised by Dr. Ponseti in the late forties, should be sought to start correcting the deformity soon after birth, (7-10 days).
How often do the manipulations need to take place to correct clubfoot in otherwise normal children?
Most clubfeet in otherwise normal children can be corrected with manipulations every 5 to 7 days
followed by plaster-cast applications. If the deformity is not corrected in 5 to 7 plaster-cast changes, the treatment is most likely faulty.
What is metatarsus varus or metatarsus adductus?
A foot deformity called metatarsus varus or metatarsus adductus is often confused with the clubfoot deformity. The metatarsus adductus is a mild turning in of the foot which often corrects by itself. The heel is never in equinus (unyielding plantar flexion). In more severe cases it can be easily corrected with two to three plaster-cast applications. Some doctors believe they have corrected clubfeet when they have corrected metatarsus adductus.
What is the manipulative treatment of clubfoot deformity based on?
The manipulative treatment of clubfoot deformity is based on the inherent properties of the connective tissue, cartilage, and bone, which respond to the proper mechanical stimuli created by the gradual reduction of the deformity. The ligaments, joint capsules, and tendons are stretched under gentle manipulations. A plaster cast is applied after each manipulation to retain the degree of correction and soften the ligaments. The displaced bones are thus gradually brought into the correct alignment with their joint surfaces progressively remodeled yet maintaining congruency. After two months of manipulation and casting the foot appears slightly overcorrected After a few weeks in splints however, the foot looks normal.
Proper foot manipulations require a thorough understanding of the anatomy and kinematics of the normal foot and of the deviations of the tarsal bones in the clubfoot. Poorly conducted manipulations will further complicate the clubfoot deformity. The non-operative treatment will succeed better if it is started a few days or weeks after birth and if the orthopaedist understands the nature of the deformity and possesses manipulative skill and expertise in plaster-cast applications.
What does a foot look like in an adult born with unilateral clubfoot deformities that was treated with the Ponseti Method?
In all the patients with unilateral clubfoot, the normal foot was slightly longer (mean 1.3 cm) and wider (mean 0.4 cm) than the clubfoot. The limb lengths, on the other hand, were the same, but the circumference of the leg on the normal side was greater (mean 2.3 cm).
Where can I find more information about the Ponseti Method?
The Ponseti method, which more and more doctors are becoming acquainted with, is described in detail in his book Congenital clubfoot. Fundamentals of Treatment (Oxford University Press), 1996. Congenital Clubfoot: Fundamentals of Treatment (Oxford University Press), 1996. Available through Dept. of Orthopeadic Surgery, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, Iowa 52242. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another informative publication is Clubfoot: Ponseti Management. Global-HELP Publications. Web site: global-help.org
What is the incidence of clubfeet in children where one or two parents are also affected?
When one parent is affected with clubfoot, there is a three to four percent chance that the offspring will also be affected. However, when both parents are affected, the offspring have a 15% chance of developing clubfoot.
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