Babies can be born with foot deformities for a number of reasons. Foot deformities may occur as a result of a genetic defect, birth trauma or developmental or positional abnormalities during gestation. Sometimes, such deformities are hereditary. They may also, in some cases, result from the toxicity to the fetus of certain medications the mother has ingested during pregnancy.
While foot deformities may not be painful, they can later affect the child's development and ability to walk and so require prompt treatment. Wherever possible, treatment for congenital foot deformities begins with nonsurgical methods such as manipulation and casting to restore the affected feet to their normal position and hold them in place as they heal. When such treatments are unsuccessful, surgery may be necessary.
Some of the most common congenital foot deformities include:
- Metatarsus adductus, foot points inward
- Clubfoot, foot points in and down
- Calcaneovalgus, foot points up and out
- Vertical talus, flat feet with "rocker bottom"
- Polydactyly, too many toes
- Syndactyly, joined or "webbed" toes
- Overlapping toes
Surgery for congenital deformities is often performed during the first year of life, before the baby begins to walk, so that growth and development are not adversely affected. The type of surgery performed depends on the location and severity of the deformity, but can often be done using minimally invasive techniques. In situations where congenital foot deformities are part of a more complex medical disorder, they may be more difficult to treat and be associated with more surgical complications. Fortunately, though, most congenital foot deformities can now be fully corrected and babies born with these conditions most often go on to lead completely normal lives.