Clubfoot: What Every Parent Needs to Know

by | Jun 1, 2018

Maybe the doctors detected it on the ultrasound. Or maybe it wasn’t apparent until just after birth. But either way, it’s unavoidable: your little one has clubfoot. Now what? At this stage, it’s normal to feel sad, scared, angry… even devastated. It’s your baby! But your story has a happy ending. The road won’t always be an easy one. But clubfoot is very treatable. With expert care and guidance, loving support, and patience, your child can still grow up normally, with no meaningful disability holding them back. As a new parent of a child with clubfoot, here’s what you need to know. Children

Clubfoot Can Be Treated Without Major Surgery

The “gold standard” treatment for clubfoot is the Ponseti method, developed in the 1940s and 1950s by Spanish physician Ignacio Ponseti. When correctly performed it can fully restore natural position and function to a child’s feet. Each week, the doctor will carefully stretch and reposition your baby’s feet into proper alignment, then place the long leg plaster casts to hold the foot in position. After a week the cast is removed, baby’s feet are stretched and repositioned once again, and placed in a new cast. This cycle of manipulation and casting will last for a few months, about 3-8 casts usually. Before the last cast a minimally invasive procedure to lengthen the Achilles tendon is usually done to achieve full correction. Baby’s feet are casted one last time, for about three weeks so that the Achilles can heal. In order to prevent a relapse, your child will need to wear braces at least part of the time until 4-5 years of age. For the first 3 months or so they will need to wear the brace almost full time. However, over time they will need to wear the brace less and less—eventually just at nap time and bedtime, and eventually not at all. Of course, we will continue to guide you throughout the entire process.

Parental Discipline Is Critical to Prevent Relapse

To re-emphasize: Once the cycle of casting and manipulation is over, it is mainly up to the child’s parents and family to continue with the regular bracing for the next years. This is not difficult or complicated—anyone can do it. But you have to be disciplined and committed to keeping up with the bracing schedule each and every day. It is truly heartbreaking when a child’s clubfoot relapses, and when this does happen, the vast majority of the time it from bracing noncompliance. We don’t say this to scare you—we just want to make sure you realize how incredibly important this is. Clubfoot

Treatment Should Begin as Soon as Baby and Mom are Heathy to Travel … But If Your Child Is Older, There Is Still Hope

The best time to begin clubfoot treatment is within the first month of life. If you start treatment early, then the casting and the first several months of bracing can all occur before your child is naturally ready to begin crawling, cruising, and walking. In other words, if you start treatment shortly after your child is born, you shouldn’t have to worry about any development delays or mobility struggles affecting your child’s natural development. They’ll learn to walk, run, and play normally on schedule. However, the Ponseti method has been effective in older kids as well! Many of the kids we see did not get the treatment they needed when they were younger or have had a relapse. We are always happy to provide our assistance. This is obviously not as ideal, since the clubfoot and resulting treatment will have a greater impact on your child’s day-to-day life. However, treatment is still possible.

You Are Not Alone

A clubfoot diagnosis can feel isolating and alienating. It’s possible that you don’t know anyone who had clubfoot before (at least to your knowledge). But it’s a lot more common than you’d think. In fact, current estimates suggest that about 1 in 750 babies are born with a diagnosable clubfoot deformity. That means that, on average:
  • Every day, 15 children are born with clubfoot in the United States
  • Every day, 2 children are born with clubfoot in the State of California
  • Every week, a child is born with clubfoot in Orange County
In other words, just within 15-20 miles or so of where you live, there are probably at least 100 other parents of children under 2 years old with clubfoot. A few might even live right in your neighborhood. It is very common, and there are people nearby who understand what you’re going through.

A Supportive Community Is Here for You

Of course, it’s not enough to simply know that many other people are in the same situation. You need to actually connect with them for mutual support and encouragement. Fortunately, the clubfoot community is strong, active, engaged, and welcoming. There is strength in numbers and knowledge. No one has to go through this walk alone. And no one should—study after study shows parents and family members who are informed, knowledgeable, and have community support produce better outcomes for their kids. One of the most important services we provide as a practice—aside from treatment of course—is by being the link between parents and families. We maintain our own Clubfoot Club, where parents can talk and encourage one another, and kids can meet and play with other children going through the same treatment process. Clubfoot Club isn’t just a “support group,” although that’s part of it. It’s also a great opportunity to relax, have fun, and bond with others who have a very meaningful shared experience. We do casual meetups, special events, and even through a big party (with speakers, food, activities, prizes, raffle tickets, and more) every year on World Clubfoot Day. (By the way, this is coming up again fast—the fun starts at 11 a.m. on June 9, 2018 at Florence Joyner Olympiad Park. Click here for more details!)

We’re Only a Phone Call Away

Clubfoot is a condition that’s extremely close to our hearts at Southern California Foot & Ankle Specialists. It’s also personal—Dr. Rodriguez had flat feet and that experience helps motivate her to helping as many children as possible live happy, active lifestyles. Caring for children with clubfoot isn’t just another “specialty” here. We truly have a heart and passion for these kids and their families. Simply providing the highest quality medical care is only part of the equation for us. Making sure that families are informed, educated, supported, and validated is a critical part of our mission. We promise to take great care of your kids, and we promise to take great care of you, too. We’ll spend as much time as necessary answering your questions. We work hard to make ourselves as available as possible to our patients, sometimes after hours if necessary. To get started on your journey, please give us a call today at (949) 364-9255.