Clubfoot Deformity: Developmental Concerns

Clubfoot deformity is a diagnosis given to many newborn infants. It is a congenital condition that has been noted as far back as the ancient Egyptians. About one in 1000 Caucasian newborn infants are diagnosed with this condition, while it is less frequent in other races. About half of the babies diagnosed with clubfoot have the condition in both feet. It affects males twice as much as females. Until recently, it was thought that a baby’s position in the uterus prior to birth caused the clubfoot condition by making the foot stuck in one position for a long period of time. However, new medical information and research shows that clubfoot is caused by abnormal growth and separation of the foot and ankle bones.

If your child or newborn has been diagnosed with clubfoot deformity, you probably have a lot of questions and concerns. Among other questions, you may be wondering how this will affect your child’s normal growth and development. Depending on the severity and treatment, clubfoot can have some long-term effects on normal infant and childhood development and growth.

Normal growth and development require that the bones in the feet be able to move as they were designed and in relationship to one another. Clubfoot does not allow this to occur, and it can have a large effect on normal growth and development. If it is not properly corrected, your child can have problems with walking, normal daily tasks, and even his or her appearance.

Walking, Running, Jumping
In countries where no intervention is available for clubfoot deformity, children do learn to walk. However, it is a difficult walk, as they have to bear weight on the side or even the top of their foot. This area of the foot was not designed to bear weight, and people who walk this way can experience a lot of calluses and pain in this area. They can also experience infections and other skin problems. In order to learn correct walking, and even crawling, your child will need the clubfoot treated and corrected as soon as possible. If your child cannot walk normally, he or she will also have problems with other physical activities such as standing, running, and jumping, or potentially even driving a car. If left untreated, clubfoot can also cause arthritis later on in life, another painful and debilitating condition. 

A diagnosis of clubfoot can cause your child to develop a negative self image, which may lead to your child’s not living up to his or her full potential, even if physically able. The sooner this condition is corrected, the sooner your child can begin to form a positive self-image that is developmentally appropriate.

To avoid any developmental issues, treatment for clubfoot deformity can begin as early as two weeks of age. Treatment plans can involve a variety of different therapies to move the foot into a more normal and functional position. Manipulating the position of the baby’s foot and then casting it is one way to being therapy. The casts are replaced one to two times per week, and each time, the position of the foot and ankle is stretched slowly to a more normal position. For some babies, it is more effective to cut the tendon connecting the heel muscles to the calf muscles. After two or three months, this treatment is usually effective, though your child should continue with bracing and stretching for several years. Other therapies involve frequent taping and splinting of the foot to move it into the proper position. If these treatments do not work, surgery is recommended prior to when your baby starts walking. After surgery, your child will need to be in a cast for six to eight weeks in order to ensure that the surgery was effective.

As a parent or caregiver, it can be disheartening to put your child through such procedures. Schedule an appointment with one of our highly experienced doctors today to find out the best method for your child.