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Clubfoot in Newborns

Clubfoot is a birth defect involving one or both feet. The condition is normally diagnosed immediately after birth through a visual examination. It can also sometimes be diagnosed prior to birth via ultrasound imaging. Ranging from mild to severe, this deformity is characterized by a fixed, inward twisting of the foot.

Common Risk Factors

Clubfoot is a relatively common physical abnormality that affects approximately one in every 1,000 babies born in the United States every year. It occurs in males twice as frequently and has no known cause. A leading theory is that clubfoot develops as a result of genetics, in utero complications, or a combination of both. Risk factors include:

  • Family history – A family history of clubfoot increases the likelihood that a child will be born with the condition.
  • Environment – A mother who smokes or drinks alcohol during pregnancy is more likely to give birth to a child with one or both feet affected.
  • Other skeletal problems – In some cases, clubfoot occurs alongside other skeletal abnormalities, such as spina bifida.

Treatment for Clubfoot Should Begin Early

A baby born with clubfoot can expect to recover fully during early childhood as long as the condition is treated early. One technique – called the Ponseti method – is successfully used in a majority of cases and avoids the need for invasive surgery. The Ponseti method entails periodic manipulation of the affected foot. A plaster cast is applied after each manipulation to hold the corrected ligaments and tendons in place. To prevent relapse, a Ponseti brace is normally prescribed. This brace consists of specially designed shoes that keep the feet pointing forward. It must be worn at all times until the child turns nine months old. Subsequently, the shoes must be worn only at night until the child reaches the age of 3.

Newborns at Tampa General Hospital with the condition are treated quickly and effectively by our team of pediatric medical professionals. We are dedicated to providing advanced care for our youngest patients.