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Clubfoot

Clubfoot, or congenital talipes equinovarus (CTEV), belongs to the category of birth defects that are known as skeletal defects.

What It Is

Clubfoot is a congenital deformity in which one or both feet appear to be rotated out of normal shape or position. The foot is often twisted inwardly, forming a shape that resembles a golf club, which is the image that gives this deformity its name.

Clubfoot is a relatively common birth defect, affecting approximately 1 in every 1,000 live births. It is sometimes linked with other birth disorders, such as spina bifida. Clubfoot does not cause the afflicted infant any discomfort or pain, but will cause complications when the child begins to stand and walk.

Symptoms:

  • Affected foot is usually turned inward at birth, sometimes rotated to such a degree that it appears to be upside down
  • Affected foot has an unusually high arch
  • Affected foot lacks full range of motion
  • Calf muscles are often underdeveloped
  • Stiffness in the ankles or foot tendons
  • If only present in one foot, the affected foot may be up to one centimeter shorter than the unaffected foot

Causes

Anti-depressants: Recent studies have demonstrated a link between maternal use of certain anti-depressant drugs and specific birth defects in babies. Certain SSRI anti-depressant drugs may increase a mother’s risk of delivering a baby with clubfoot by up to 6x, a 2007 research study found. The following drugs, when taken during pregnancy, may increase the likelihood of the fetus’ development of clubfoot:

  • Zoloft
  • Paxil
  • Celexa
  • Prozac
  • Lexapro

Treatment

Treatment for clubfoot ideally begins soon after birth, while the baby’s bones and joints are still flexible. By treating the child early, her chances will be improved for avoiding long-term disabilities that arise when she beings to walk. Most babies who are treated early have a good chance of full recovery, with the ability to lead normal, active lives.

There are three main types of treatment for clubfoot. The first, the Ponseti method, involves incrementally stretching the foot into the proper position, and placing it in a series of casts to maintain the new position. Following casting, the position is sustained through use of nighttime splints or braces and specially designed exercises. The second method is similar, but uses tape instead of casts, and may take more time and effort than casting. If non-surgical methods are unsuccessful, surgery may be necessary. In this case, surgeons can lengthen tendons to help turn the foot into proper positioning.

 

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