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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Newborn Foot Examination

One of the most common questions asked by new parents concerns their newborn's feet. "Is this normal?" is an appropriate question to ask when a body part on your child doesn't quite look right. 
Though changes in the angles of the feet are typically normal, it is imperative that the pediatrician rules out conditions that require closer observation and management. Here is the "differential diagnosis" for oddly shaped baby feet:

Metatarsus Adductus
The "forefoot" or front part of the foot is turned in (adducted) toward the center, while the middle and hint foot portions are normal. Typically caused by "intrauterine molding", or the way the baby was positioned in the womb. The physician will perform a quick test to be sure the forefoot can be moved to midline without resistance. If the feet are too rigid, a referral to a pediatric orthopedist is warranted. There, the feet may be placed in special "reverselast" shoes and reevaluated in 6 weeks. If this does not fix the problem, serial lower leg casting may be required. The last step would be surgery, which isn't done until 4 years of age. 

Talipes Equinovarus (clubfoot)
The whole foot is adducted. As with above, a quick test for rigidity is performed. If correctable, it is referred to as "positional clubfoot" and is simply observed over time. The more serious diagnosis is congenital clubfoot, which occurs in 1 out of every 1,000 births. Congenital clubfoot requires x-ray imaging, referral to pediatric orthopedics and treatment with special casting referred to as the "Ponseti method". Surgery may be required between ages 3-12 months. 


Pes Planus (flat foot)
The lack of an identifiable arch in the foot. This is quite common, seen in approximately 1 in every 4 children. This condition is simply observed over time, since arches typically develop by age 10. If the child complains of pain in the feet as they get older, they may require stretching exercises or special shoes. 

Congenital Vertical Talus (rocker bottom foot)
Rocker bottom feet are characterized by elevated, dislocated, midfeet. The condition is typically associated with genetic syndromes or single gene deletions. Referral is made to pediatric orthopedics.