Around 4,000 babies are born with at least one club foot in the United States each year. This disorder is one of the most common birth defects found in babies today. Club feet develop in the womb and an ultrasound may detect the disorder before the baby’s birth. Club feet can be corrected through a number of different treatment options.
Club foot is a common disorder that affects approximately one in 1,000 babies at birth. Parents that have a child with club feet have a 40 per cent chance of having a second child born with the disorder. Babies can be born with a single club foot although around 50 per cent will have two club feet. In some cases, babies born with club feet will also have neurological disorders. It is also more common for males to have club feet than females.
There are four different types of club feet. The first type is called positional and is caused by the way the baby is positioned in the womb. Teratologic club feet frequently develop in babies who suffer from certain neurological conditions. Syndromic club feet are the result of some type of genetic disorder such as arthrogryposis. The final type of club feet are called congenital and is the result of an abnormality that is not associated with any type of neurological condition.
A baby suffering from club feet will have either one, or both, feet that point downwards. The feet will also curve inwards toward one another. Some babies with club feet will have additional creases on the bottom of their feet. Both the feet and calves of babies with club feet will be less developed. This is more noticeable if only one of the baby’s limbs is affected. The severity of club feet can vary greatly from one child to the next.
Treatment for club feet starts shortly after the baby is born. Many treatment options begin with a method called serial casting. Each leg that is affected by the disorder is carefully rotated into an improved position and then a full leg cast is applied. This process is repeated for several weeks until the club feet have been corrected. It may be determined that casting alone is not enough to correct the disorder and surgery may be recommended. Surgery requires that each of the ligaments and tendons that are tight be released and repaired using wires to extend them. Casting is required after the surgery is completed. Bracing is another popular treatment option that is used after both serial casting and surgery. Babies are fitted with special braces that can be tightened to ensure the foot remains in its proper position. Children may need to wear this type of bracing for up to four years.
Even after club feet have been corrected, there is up to a 25 per cent chance that the condition could return at some point in the future. In the event of a reoccurrence, casting and surgery may be used again to correct the club feet. Careful monitoring of the feet through the growing years and into adulthood is important. Most children with successfully repaired club feet will go on to live a perfectly normal life.