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Clubfoot is a general term used to describe a range of unusual positions of the foot. Most types are present at birth. It can happen in one foot or in both feet. In almost half of infants with clubfoot, both feet are involved.

What are the symptoms of clubfoot?

Clubfoot is painless in a baby, but it can eventually cause discomfort and become a noticeable disability. Left untreated, clubfoot does not straighten itself out. The foot will remain twisted out of shape, and the affected leg may be shorter and smaller than the other.

These symptoms become more obvious and more of a problem as the child grows. There are also problems with fitting shoes and participating in normal play. Treatment that begins shortly after birth can help overcome these problems.

How is clubfoot diagnosed?

Ultrasound done before the baby is born can sometimes detect clubfoot. It is more common for a doctor to diagnose the condition after the infant is born based on how the feet and legs look and move. In some cases, especially if the clubfoot is due just to the position of the growing baby before birth (postural clubfoot), the foot is flexible and can be moved into a normal or nearly normal position after the baby is born. In other cases, the foot is more stiff, and the muscles at the back of the calf are very tight.

How is clubfoot treated?

Treatment starts soon after birth. Your doctor may try putting a cast or splint on the foot or feet first. This means the foot (or feet) is moved into the most normal position and held in that position until the next treatment. Treatment is repeated every few weeks for several weeks. The foot is moved a little closer toward a normal position at each visit.

Your doctor may do surgery if the cast or splint isn't working or if the foot is severely out of place. The most common surgeries repair ligaments and tendons, such as the heel cord (Achilles tendon). After surgery, a foot brace holds the foot in place while it heals. The child may have physical therapy.

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