Clubfoot is defined as a congenital foot deformity characterized by a kidney shaped foot that turns inward and points down. The forefoot is curved inward, the heel is bent inward, and the ankle is fixed in planter flexion with the toes pointing down. Shortened tendons on the inside of the lower leg, together with abnormally shaped bones that restrict movement outwards cause the foot to turn inwards. A tightened achilles tendon causes the foot to point downwards. The medical term for clubfoot is talipes equinovarus . It is the most common congenital disorder of the lower extremity. There are several variations, but talipes equinovarus being the most common. Clubfeet occurs in approximately 1 in every 800-1000 babies, being twice as common in boys than girls. One or both feet may be affected.
The history of clubfeet began as far back as 400 B.C. Hipocrates was the first to describe it. He used bandages to treat it. As time progressed so did the treatment methods. In about 1743 gentle stretching was recommended. During that same century, a mechanical device resembling a turnbuckle was used to help stretch the tendons. By this time clubfoot was pretty well known around the world, using the typical stretching and splinting methods. In the 1800’s plaster of paris was first introduced, and later that same century, the introduction of aseptic technique and anasthesia diminished, but not eliminated infection. As the 70’s and 80’s rolled around, other more reliable methods were depended upon. These new methods were less dependent on wrapping and taping.
The majority of clubfeet results from abnormal development of the muscles, tendons, and bones while the baby is forming in the uterus. Genetic and environmental factors in the development of the fetus seem to also be some of the causes. The disturbance of the normal growing foot probably occurs at about the eighth week of pregnancy. The cause of the foot growing deformed is unknown, but believed to have something to do with heredity. Many cases of clubfoot do not have easily identifiable causes. The goal of treatment is to achieve and maintain as normal as a foot as possible. The extent of the required treatment varies, depending upon the rigidity of the foot. Treatment may take several months, but most children learn to crawl, stand, and walk at the normal age. There are a couple different ways to go about treating clubfoot, the two most perfered being manipulation and casting, and surgery.
Clubfoot is most common in children who suffer from spina bifida who have an L4 or L5 motor level. Many orthopedic surgeons instead of serial casting suggest early taping and gentle manipulation followed by an application of a well-padded splint. The reason for this is because serial casting can cause skin irritations and breakdown. Another technique manipulation and casting is a treatment that begins shortly after birth. It involves slowly stretching out the tightened muscles and holding the foot in an improved position with a cast. The casts are made of plaster and extend from the toes to either just above the knee, or just below it. Adduction of the foot is usually corrected first, followed by inversion of the hindfoot, and lastly the plantar flexion. The casts are changed frequently, each time repositioning the foot a little closer to normal. For the first two-three weeks, the casts are changed every second to fourth day. Cast changes are then decreased to once every one-two weeks. This treatment continues until the child is three to six months old. This method of treatment is distressing to the infant for only a short period of time. For this reason parents will be taught cast care before leaving the clinic.
If the foot is too stiff to allow for adequate correction, then the tight or shortened tendons may need to be lengthened or released. The type of surgery varies according to how much soft tissue is released. During a surgical correction of a mild case of clubfoot, the surgeon must decide which joints require no, minimal, or moderate incision. In mild clubfoot, the mid and posterior subtalar joints requires minimal or no incision. All medial tendons are lengthened, the anterior and midtarsal joints are released, and