THIS month, we are highlighting the Ponseti method – the low-cost, non-surgical, and highly successful method of treating clubfoot.
Until the last decade, the complexity of surgery and limited access to safe services meant that most children born with clubfoot in low- and middle-income countries did not have access to treatment. However, in around 2005, the Ponseti Method became the orthopaedic standard for treating clubfoot, sparking a global movement. The method is not only inexpensive but also extremely effective in restoring full mobility in 95% of cases.
The Ponseti method is not just employed by MiracleFeet and partner hospitals in low- and middle-income countries, but it is also the preferred treatment provided by the NHS and healthcare providers worldwide.
The Ponseti Method was invented in the 1950’s by Dr. Ignacio Ponseti, a Spanish Physician specializing in orthopaedics at the University of Iowa. The method starts with gentle manipulation of the feet, followed by the application of a plaster cast to maintain the corrected position. Casts are changed weekly over the course of one – two months, depending on severity, until the foot and ankle are correctly positioned.
A tenotomy generally follows casting, whereby a small incision is made to release the Achilles tendon, allowing the foot to achieve the optimum position. This is a minimally invasive procedure and full recovery is expected within weeks.
Next begins the bracing stage of treatment. A foot abduction brace consisting of shoes and a bar is worn to ensure the feet maintain the proper position as they grow. The brace is worn primarily while sleeping at night to prevent relapse (following an initial three-month period when it is used for 23 hours/day).
Ideally, treatment should begin within a week after birth, when the tendons and ligaments are at their most elastic. However, the Ponseti Method has been used successfully on children up to the age of 6, and growing evidence shows that children as old as 16 can be treated effectively without major surgery.
The Ponseti Method has become the universal standard for treating clubfoot throughout the world and the simplicity of this non-invasive treatment is ideal for low-resource settings costing only $500 per child, on average. MiracleFeet partners have used this method to successfully treat over 84,000 children worldwide, ensuring that they have the chance to walk, run, and play.
Qualified health workers are at the heart of MiracleFeet’s mission to eliminate clubfoot disability worldwide. Increasing the number and availability of providers trained in the Ponseti Method is central to their model of expanding sustainable access to treatment globally.
For more information on MiracleFeet and the work that they do, please visit: https://www.miraclefeet.org.