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New treatment for clubfoot avoids invasive surgery

September 20, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
It's the most common congenital birth defect, affecting one in 500 babies, yet many new parents know nothing about it. Advances in the way doctors treat clubfoot are helping many tiny patients.

Clubfoot is a common birth defect affecting boys twice as often as girls. It's something baby Kilian Ferner's mom had never heard of.

"I thought the word 'clubfoot' was really scary, and I thought it meant they just had this foot that didn't work, and it followed behind them and they dragged it with them wherever they went," said Erin Ferner.

With clubfoot, one or both feet are twisted inward. Kilian had it in both.

"It's a lot of fear and it's a lot of, 'Will he be OK?'" said Erin.

But with advances in treatment, Doctor John Herzenberg says it's nothing to be afraid of.

"Yes, your child will be able to grow up and play sports and do just about anything he wants," said Herzenberg.

The best treatment option is the Ponseti method, which uses a series of casts over several months to straighten the foot.

"It's kind of like braces on your teeth where you move it slowly, little by little, about 10 degrees every week until the foot is twisted out," said Herzenberg.

You can see the difference after six months. Kilian had seven casts in all, each telling a story.

"Each week there was a different quote about how we overcame, you know, whatever we had to cross that week," said Erin Ferner.

Now little Kilian can follow along in his big brother's footsteps when he's ready.

Once out of the casts, babies with clubfoot then must wear special shoes for three months to keep their feet in the right position. The therapy is now also being used in developing countries to help older children with clubfeet walk normally.


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