Posted by Claudia Grazioso on July 14, 2011
Surgery freaks me out. I know we’re a very advanced country in terms of surgical procedures, but I’ve never been okay with the idea of being knocked out and waking up with stitches. In fact, I almost made myself woozy just typing that last line. That’s probably why I am forever investigating “non-surgical procedures.” And it turns out that in the case of clubfoot, the non-surgical procedures are actually incredibly effective — possibly even more effective than surgery. Now that is music to a parent’s ears.
Clubfoot is a congenital birth defect that occurs in about 1 out of every 1,000 births. It is more frequent in boys, and has no known cause, though several studies have linked it to maternal use of anti-depressants during pregnancy. In children born with clubfootedness, one or both feet usually rotate inward and down. The severity of the rotation can range from very slight to very pronounced. Though it looks incredibly painful, it actually isn’t.
Dr. Ignacio Ponseti, physician and professor emeritus in Orthopedic Surgery at the University Of Iowa, developed a non-surgical method for treating clubfoot and found that it often produced great results. And today most doctors will attempt to treat clubfoot non-surgically first, unless it is an extremely severe case. The usual course of treatment for clubfoot today involves gently moving the foot into the correct position, and then putting it in a cast that holds it that way. Usually an orthopedic specialist does this. The foot is usually gently stretched, manipulated and recast several times. Once the position of the foot has been corrected, the child usually is fitted with a brace for several months, and then eventually wears the brace only at night or when sleeping. This is normally continued for several years. Sometimes a minor surgical procedure (frequently outpatient) is done to release the Achilles tendon. Some rare and severe cases of clubfoot do require surgical intervention.
If your child is being treated for clubfoot using the Ponseti Method or another method of gentle manipulation and casting, all should be well. But some things you should always watch out for are whether or not your child’s toes have retracted into the cast, if your child seems to be experiencing pain, or if they have bleeding, swollen or discolored toes. Also, after the treatment is completed, keep an eye on your child and have periodic checkups to make sure the foot doesn’t starts to turn again. Doctors should continue to monitor your child.
The Ponseti Method and non-surgical methods for treating clubfoot are believed to produce very good results… and it’s one way to avoid an unnecessary hospital stay. Which is especially nice if you’re a hospital-phobe like me.