Doctors prepare for club foot surgery

Understanding Club Foot Surgery

Club foot is a common condition that affects one of both feet of an infant. Treatment for club foot begins soon after birth and may take a few years to complete. When non-surgical methods fail, more invasive surgery is required, typically for older children or adults. Here is a closer look at the surgery used to correct club foot.

Achilles Tenotomy

An Achilles tenotomy is performed to lengthen a tightened Achilles tendon and release tissues elsewhere in the foot. By releasing tissues and lengthening the tendon, the foot can be moved into a normal position. This is a minor surgery and is usually required after non-surgical treatment is complete in order to prevent a relapse in adulthood. Following the procedure, a cast is worn for three weeks to enable the Achilles tendon to regrow normally. 

Club Foot Repair Surgery

In extreme cases, usually involving older children or adults with untreated club foot, more extensive surgery is needed. In fact, treatment may require more than one surgical session. 
 
Club foot repair surgery can involve cutting into the bone, known as osteotomy, in order to turn the foot into the correct position.  After the bone is cut and the foot is turned, metal plates or screws are used to hold the foot in place. Finally, a cast is placed in order to give the foot more support during the healing process. 

Surgical Risks 

Although the surgery can be successful, there are potential risks, including nerve damage, swelling, impaired blood flow to the foot, and ulcers, if the cast is too tight. Commonly, adults who undergo club foot surgery complain of stiffness in the foot and/or ankle. As individuals age, this can result in arthritis. Additionally, surgery may be needed again as children grow older.

Surgical Recovery

Treating club foot continues even after surgery is complete. A cast must be worn for up to three months in order for the leg to heal properly. Physical therapy will also help with flexibility, range of motion, and muscle tone after surgery, but muscles may remain smaller than in the unaffected leg, even after surgery. After surgery, some people wear a brace to help keep the foot in the correct position. The brace also helps the leg move normally.