Background: Nonoperative management of clubfoot with the Ponseti method has proven to be effective, and it is the accepted initial form of treatment. Although several studies have shown that problems with compliance with the brace protocol are principally responsible for recurrence, no distinction has been made with regard to whether the distance from the site of care affects the early recurrence rate. We compared early recurrence after Ponseti treatment between rural and urban ethnically diverse North American populations to analyze whether distance from the site of care affects compliance and whether certain patient demographic characteristics predict recurrence.
Methods: One hundred consecutive infants with a total of 138 clubfeet treated with the Ponseti method were followed prospectively for at least two years from the beginning of treatment. Early recurrence, defined as the need for subsequent cast treatment or surgical treatment, and compliance, defined as strict adherence to the brace protocol described by Ponseti, were analyzed with respect to the distance from the site of care, age at presentation, number of casts needed for the initial correction, need for tenotomy, and family demographic variables.
Results: Of eighteen infants from a rural area who had early recurrence, fourteen were Native American. The families of these children, like those of all of the children with early recurrence, discontinued orthotic use earlier than was recommended by the physician. Discontinuation of orthotic use was related to recurrence, with an odds ratio of 120 (p < 0.0001), in patients living in a rural area. Native American ethnicity, unmarried parents, public or no insurance, parental education at the high-school level or less, and a family income of less than $20,000 were also significant risk factors for recurrence in patients living in a rural area. Intrinsic factors of the clubfoot deformity were not correlated with recurrence or discontinuation of bracing.
Conclusions: Compliance with the orthotic regimen after cast treatment is imperative for the Ponseti method to succeed. The striking difference in outcome in rural Native American patients as compared with the outcomes in urban Native American patients and children of other ethnicities suggests particular problems in communicating to families in this subpopulation the importance of bracing to maintain correction. An examination of communication styles suggested that these communication failures may be culturally related.
Level of Evidence: Prognostic Level I. See Instructions to Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.