Background: In the treatment of idiopathic clubfeet, the Ponseti method and the French functional method have been successful in reducing the need for surgery. The purpose of this prospective study was to compare the results of these two methods at one institution.
Methods: Patients under three months of age with previously untreated idiopathic clubfeet were enrolled. All feet were rated for severity prior to treatment. After both techniques had been described to them, the parents selected the treatment method. Outcomes at a minimum of two years were classified as good (a plantigrade foot with, or without, a heel-cord tenotomy), fair (a plantigrade foot that had or needed to have limited posterior release or tibialis anterior transfer), or poor (a need for a complete posteromedial surgical release). Two hundred and sixty-seven feet in 176 patients treated with the Ponseti method and 119 feet in eighty patients treated with the French functional method met the inclusion criteria.
Results: The patients were followed for an average of 4.3 years. Both groups had similar severity scores before treatment. The initial correction rates were 94.4% for the Ponseti method and 95% for the French functional method. Relapses occurred in 37% of the feet that had initially been successfully treated with the Ponseti method. One-third of the relapsed feet were salvaged with further nonoperative treatment, but the remainder required operative intervention. Relapses occurred in 29% of the feet that had been successfully treated with the French functional method, and all required operative intervention. At the time of the latest follow-up, the outcomes for the feet treated with the Ponseti method were good for 72%, fair for 12%, and poor for 16%. The outcomes for the feet treated with the French functional method were good for 67%, fair for 17%, and poor for 16%.
Conclusions: Nonoperative correction of an idiopathic clubfoot deformity can be maintained over time in most patients. Although there was a trend showing improved results with use of the Ponseti method, the difference was not significant. In our experience, parents select the Ponseti method twice as often as they select the French functional method.
Level of Evidence: Therapeutic Level II. See Instructions to Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.