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What causes clubfoot?

A clubfoot is a disability of the foot which are existing at birth. It happens in approximately one per 1000 live births which makes it a fairly common condition. When a baby arrives the midwife or doctor is going to examine them for a number of different conditions as part of the screening process. A clubfoot is one of those conditions that they routinely check for. A clubfoot is defined as when the foot is in a downward and inward position when compared to normal. This is technically called planterflexed, inverted and abducted placement of the foot. In the grand scheme of things a clubfoot is mostly fairly minor problem but still may be very upsetting at the birth as it is obvious. Often, clubfoot is an isolated condition, but sometimes it is part of a range of signs and symptoms making up a syndrome. Babies with this deformity are usually more prone to have a dislocated hip at birth.

The treatment of a clubfoot is determined by the severity and nature of it. There are generally two types of clubfoot; flexible and rigid. A flexible clubfoot is frequently treated with regular mobilization, manipulation and stretching out and then the foot is put into a plaster cast to hold it in a more corrected position. After a period of time, that can rely on how severe it is, the plaster cast is taken off and the foot is yet again mobilized and stretched with a new plaster cast being used after that to hold the foot in an even more corrected position. This approach has been well documented to be normally very successful. If this treatment is not successful or if the deformity is inflexible then a surgical strategy is indicated. Technically this can be a challenging surgery as the foot and structures are extremely small. There are plenty of structures from the bone, to the tendons, to the ligaments that have to be operated on to move the foot in to a much more corrected position, making it difficult.