What causes clubfoot?

A clubfoot is a disability of the foot that is usually present at birth. It happens in approximately one per 1000 live births making it a reasonably frequent condition. When a baby is born the midwife or doctor will examine them for many different problems as part of the screening protocol. A clubfoot is one of those problems that they typically search for. A clubfoot is described as when the foot is in a downward and inward position as compared with normal. This is technically known as planterflexed, inverted and abducted position of the foot. In the grand scheme of things a clubfoot is usually fairly minor problem however may be very stressful at the birth because it is visible. Generally, it's an isolated condition, but occasionally it is part of a range of signs and symptoms making up a syndrome. Those with this deformity can also be more prone to have a dislocated hip at birth.

The management of a clubfoot is dependent upon the seriousness and nature of it. There are basically two types of this deformity; flexible and rigid. A flexible clubfoot will likely be managed by regular mobilization, manipulation and stretching and then the foot is placed in a plaster cast to hold it in a more changed position. After a period of time, that could depend on how serious it is, the plaster cast is taken off and the foot is again mobilized and stretched with a new plaster cast being used after that to hold the foot in an much more corrected position. This process has been well researched to be generally very effective. If this therapy is not successful or if the deformity is rigid then a surgical technique is recommended. Technically this is a challenging surgery as the foot and structures are incredibly small. There are numerous structures from the bone, to the tendons, to the ligaments that should be operated on to move the foot in to a much more corrected position, making it difficult.