Conditions we treat: Clubfoot

This blog is part of an ongoing series looking to explain the common conditions CURE treats in ways that all of us non-medical folk can understand. 

Clubfoot is a common condition treated CURE Zambia. Clubfoot is a condition where the feet appear to be internally rotated at the ankle. The foot points down and inwards making the sole of the feet face each other. Clubfoot is a congenital deformity that is present at birth and it has no known cause, also referred to as idiopathic. However, clubfoot can also result from a congenital condition like spina bifida or arthrogryposis, this is referred to as secondary clubfoot. 

In terms of what you can see physically even without any medical background, clubfoot can be classified into two groups which are bilateral and unilateral clubfoot. Bilateral clubfoot is a type of clubfoot that affects both feet and unilateral only affects one foot.

Clubfoot affects children physically and emotionally. Physically, it is painful to walk with clubfoot. The majority of children with this condition are unable to put on proper shoes and some can not put on any shoes at all! Emotionally, they feel neglected and outcast. Due to their condition, they are often unable to participate in the same activities that their peers enjoy. Some children with clubfoot also struggle with getting an education because they can’t walk to school. Without treatment, these children often grow up without the education or physical ability to work and live in poverty. 

Management of clubfoot can be done by surgical and non-surgical intervention. The non-surgical approach is ideal for children under the age of two, using a method called ponseti. The ponseti method involves the application of a series of casts on the feet over a period of time. When the child achieves the desired correction, a small operation will be performed to release the tendon on the top of the heel. The child will then wear braces until about 4 to 5 years of age. Surgical intervention is chosen for children older than two years. There are numerous procedures our surgeons employ depending on the severity of the condition and the age of the child. Some children have one surgical procedure, while others have multiple. The number of procedures depends on the severity of the clubfoot. After the surgery, a cast is put on the foot and the child undergoes a series of dressing changes and manipulations over a period of weeks. When the desired correction is achieved, the child has the cast on for several weeks. After the healing process, our physiotherapists help the child with rehabilitation exercises and teach the child how to walk with straightened feet.

Dorcas, one of our CUREkids, dropped out of school last year since she could no longer bear the pain of walking the long distance to school because of her bilateral clubfoot. “If I am not educated, I will not amount to anything in life,” Dorcas told us before the surgery. Thankfully, she received treatment at the CURE Children’s Hospital of Zambia. Dorcas is now walking without assistance on straight feet! We are excited for Dorcas to attend school and work toward a successful and bright future. 

The cause of clubfoot is unknown, and the prevalence of clubfoot in Zambia is seemingly high. However, this is a treatable condition. With your support, we are making a difference for children with clubfoot and giving them hope for a bright future. With corrective surgery, they are able to put on proper shoes, attend school, and engage in activities with their peers. 

One of the beautiful things about CURE is that it allows everyone to participate in the life-transforming surgeries that are provided daily at the CURE hospitals all around the world. You don’t need to be able to understand words like bilateral, ventricle, genu valgum, congenital, or cerebral-spinal fluid to take part in the life-changing and life-saving work that is done. But with this said, having an understanding of the conditions CURE treats does allow a deeper appreciation of just how important the work your donation is enabling the CURE staff to do!

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