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Clubfoot

Alternative names: Talipes, Talipes Equinovarus

Learn about our clubfoot program at Children's Hospital at Dartmouth (CHaD).

What is clubfoot?

Clubfoot is a foot deformity, present at birth, in which the foot is turned to the side pointing inwards. Clubfoot is not painful when the patient is an infant, but treatment should not wait to be started because as the child ages, the condition becomes more painful and can cause other significant problems.

What are the signs of clubfoot?

  • The foot is turned inward from birth
  • The calf and leg above the affected foot is shorter than on the other leg

How is clubfoot caused?

There is no known cause of clubfoot, however, if another member of the family has the condition, this can sometimes mean a relative is more likely to suffer from it. Clubfoot occurs in approximately one in every 1000 births, with a higher incidence in males.

How does a doctor tell a patient has clubfoot?

The doctor will take some of the following steps to see if a patient has a clubfoot:

  • Looking at the foot, ankle, and leg is usually enough for a doctor to confirm the diagnosis
  • Order an X-ray to make sure of the condition and get a clear picture of the bones

How is clubfoot normally treated?

The choice of treatment depends on the age of the child and the severity of the clubfoot. Most people born with clubfoot are able to lead normal lives.

Non-surgical treatments

Stretching and putting a cast on the area is a non-surgical method that is often used, especially when it is started at a younger age. One example of this technique is the Ponseti method, in which a cast is worn by the infant and changed on a weekly basis. When changing the cast, the doctor stretches the foot toward a normal position. Once the right position is reached, the infant has to wear a leg brace every day for two years to reinforce the correction.

Surgical treatments

In more severe cases, the stretching and casting method may not work and surgery is needed to correct the problem. Surgery will most likely adjust the tendons, joints, and ligaments of the foot and ankle in order to correct the positioning of the foot. The surgery is typically done between 9-12 months of age. Following the surgery, a cast is worn to help the muscles heal correctly, followed by wearing leg braces for one year.

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