Clubfoot (also known as talipes) is the most common musculoskeletal birth deformity and is a condition where a baby is born with a foot, or feet, that turn in. It is a complex, congenital deformity of the foot caused by the abnormal development of a baby’s bones, ligaments and muscles whilst in the womb. Club foot occurs when the Achilles tendon (at the back of the ankle) is too short which, although not painful for babies, can become painful and cause difficulty with walking if left untreated.
Visually, the foot affected by clubfoot appears to be twisted inwards and downwards. The foot will be shorter than a normal foot and the calf muscles of the affected limb will be smaller. The deformity will feel ‘fixed’ – not able to be corrected manually and will not resolve on its own. Without treatment, the clubfoot deformity causes a lifetime of disability as the affected individual experiences pain and difficulty in walking.
Over 200,000 babies are born with the condition worldwide each year and annually Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust helps some 750 patients who receive treatment for this lower limb condition. In addition to local patients, children from surrounding areas, including Medway, Dartford, and Hastings (and further afield) come to the Trust for treatment.
At Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust the Ponseti Method is used to treat Clubfoot, a non-surgical treatment that includes gentle manipulation of the feet followed by the application of plaster casts and temporary bracing. The treatment takes its name from Dr Ignacio Ponseti (1914-2009), who developed this method of treatment.
The Ponseti Method is almost 100 per cent effective when properly applied by a trained health care provider and is considered the “gold standard” treatment, leading to a normal and productive life.
At MTW, the treatment of Clubfoot using the Ponseti Method has been offered since 2003 and is now a fully established, specialist service offered to patients. It is an extended scope practitioner physiotherapist led clinic with expert help of the consultant when required for surgical treatment and complex conditions.
The team comprises four Paediatric Orthopaedic Consultants and three Extended Scope Practitioner (ESP) physiotherapists, and specialist team of physiotherapist and assistants who are trained specifically in this treatment method to achieve a good outcome.
The team of consultants, practitioners and physiotherapists run regular weekly clinics for patients requiring treatment for childhood lower limb condition, supporting both patients and their families throughout their treatment.
MTW also provides antenatal appointments for parents who are carrying a baby diagnosed with Clubfoot, which prepare them for what to expect once the baby is born.