Approximately one infant in every 1,000 births will be born with clubfeet. This is one of the more common feet deformity in which infant’s foot severely turns inward that bottom of feet face sideways or even upward in some cases. Clubfeet is however not painful during infancy, but if it remains deformed & is not treated early the child will not be able to walk normally. Majority of children nevertheless are able to enjoy range of physical activities with little or no trace of deformity with proper treatment. Most clubfeet cases are successfully treated using nonsurgical methods which include combination of casting, stretching & bracing techniques which normally begin shortly following birth.
Most likely based on appearance, doctors will notice clubfeet soon after the child is born & will also advice the most appropriate treatment. Despite the look, clubfeet does not cause any pain or discomfort.
Children born will clubfeet will most likely be diagnosed soon after taking birth. Doctors will most likely refer parents to a pediatric orthopedic surgeon specializing in musculoskeletal problems. It would be a good idea to make a list of questions in the time you have before the meeting.
It would be advisable to let the doctor know if any family member, including any extended family member, to have had clubfoot. Also let him know of any medical issues or problems you have had during pregnancy. It would also be ideal to check with the doctor if s/he has commonly treated newborns with clubfoot or if you should get referral to another specialist doctor.
Although cause of clubfoot is yet unknown, scientists are however sure that it is not caused by the position baby undertakes within the womb. Clubfoot can however be associated with other congenital abnormalities of skeleton like spina bifida. Spina bifida is a serious birth defect which occurs when tissue surrounding a developing spinal cord of fetus is unable to close properly. It can therefore only be said that environment plays a vital role in causing clubfoot. Moreover, some studies have strongly linked occurrence of clubfoot to smoking cigarettes during pregnancy, especially in cases where a family history of clubfoot already exists.
Typically, clubfoot does not cause any problems until the child learns to stand & walk. Although with some difficulty, children will most likely walk normally when clubfeet is properly treated.
Mild Problems with Treated Clubfeet
Most often doctors recognize clubfoot soon after birth just by looking at the shape & position of baby’s feet. Doctors may occasionally request X-rays so as to fully understand severity of clubfoot. However, this is not usually necessary. Moreover, it is also possible to clearly see some cases of clubfeet prior to birth during an ultrasound examination especially when clubfoot affects both feet. Although nothing can be done before birth to solve this problem, but knowing existence of this condition will give parents time to learn more about clubfeet & allow them consult appropriate health experts like genetic counselors and/or orthopedic surgeons.
Bones & joints of newborn babies are extremely flexible. Treatment for clubfeet generally begins within 7 – 15 days after birth. Goal of this treatment plan is to improve the way foot looks & works in newborn infants even before they learn to walk so as to prevent long-term disabilities.
Once shape of foot is realigned, parents are required to maintain this by performing one or more of the following steps.
However, parents will need to apply braces according to direction of the doctor for this method to be successful so that feet do not return to the original position. One of the main reasons which sometimes fails this procedure is because braces have not been constantly applied.
However, French method needs a greater time commitment than the Ponseti method. Moreover, some caregivers prefer to combine French & Ponseti methods.
Clubfoot cannot be completely prevented since medical science does not yet know what exactly causes clubfeet. However, women can take certain actions so as to limit child’s risk of developing birth defects like clubfeet.
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