15 Jun

Clubfoot: Understanding & Treating a Common Childhood Condition

Clubfoot: Understanding & Treating a Common Childhood Condition Clubfoot: Understanding & Treating a Common Childhood Condition Clubfoot: Understanding & Treating a Common Childhood Condition Clubfoot: Understanding & Treating a Common Childhood Condition
Scientifically known as Congenital Talipes Equinovarus (CTEV), the term "clubfoot" is derived from Latin words: 'Tali,' meaning ankle, 'Pes,' meaning foot, 'Equinus,' meaning foot pointing down (similar to a horse's foot), and 'Varus,' meaning deviated towards the midline. Essentially, clubfoot is a congenital deformity where the foot is twisted inward and downward. It can affect one or both feet and in the most severe cases, the foot can appear as if it's facing upside down. 

Clubfoot is more prevalent in boys, with approximately twice as many cases reported in boys than in girls. The reason for this discrepancy is unknown, and on top of that, around 80% of all Clubfoot cases are idiopathic, meaning the overall cause is also unknown. The remaining 20% of cases are often associated with other disorders such as Spina Bifida, Cerebral Palsy, and Arthrogryposis.

Statistics show that clubfoot affects approximately 1 baby per 1000 births in the UK. Early detection and treatment can significantly improve the child's quality of life, so awareness among parents is key. And with treatments like the Ponseti method found to be around 90% effective in achieving a functional and cosmetically pleasing foot, many find it is a treatment worth pursuing. 

Steeper clinicians up and down the country treat clubfoot using the Ponseti method, named after Dr Ignacio Ponseti, a renowned orthopaedic surgeon. This method has revolutionised clubfoot management and is considered the gold standard treatment worldwide. Typically beginning within the first few weeks of a baby's life and continuing for several months, fibreglass casts are applied to gradually correct the foot deformity. These are changed every one to two weeks to accommodate growth and movement. 

Once the desired correction is achieved, a Foot Abduction Brace is used to maintain the correction achieved from the Ponseti method. The brace is worn for up to 23 hours a day and then gradually reduced to nighttime wear until the age of four or five. Non-compliance with brace wear can cause the Clubfoot to return, therefore, parents must ensure their child consistently wears the brace as instructed by the healthcare provider.

"The Ponseti method is the gold standard treatment for those with Clubfoot (CTEV), which is why we see such success in our clinics," says Georgia Dayes, an Orthotist at Steeper. "Orthotists work closely with a team of healthcare professionals, including consultants, nurses, plaster technicians, healthcare assistants, and physiotherapists, to provide a fully holistic treatment plan that benefits the future health of these babies."

This collaborative approach ensures that every aspect of the child's care is addressed comprehensively. From the initial diagnosis to the casting phases, a multidisciplinary team of experts works together to support the child and their parents throughout the treatment process.

Orthotists, specifically, play a crucial role in the management of clubfoot. They are specialised healthcare professionals who design, fabricate, and fit orthopaedic devices, such as braces, to support and correct musculoskeletal conditions. 

Clubfoot is a condition that can be effectively treated, allowing children to lead happy, active lives. While clubfoot presents its challenges, parents should know that many individuals with clubfoot lead fulfilling lives. Some notable personalities who were born with clubfoot include Steven Gerrard, the former Liverpool FC footballer and current Aston Villa manager, Kristi Yamaguchi, the 1992 Olympic Gold Medal-winning figure skater, and Troy Aikman, the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback.

As parents navigate the journey of clubfoot treatment, they can find comfort in knowing that a network of experts stands ready to support them. With the Ponseti method as the cornerstone of treatment and the expertise of orthotists like Georgia Dayes, the future looks bright for children born with clubfoot. Together, we can create the turning points to ensure that every child takes their first steps with confidence, embracing a world full of possibilities.

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