Background: Increasingly, the Ponseti method has been adopted worldwide as the preferred method of managing idiopathic clubfoot deformity. Following the successful implementation of the Ponseti method by orthopaedic surgeons in our institution, a clubfoot clinic was established in 2003. This clinic is directed by a physiotherapist who, using the Ponseti protocol, performs the serial cast treatment and supervises the brace management of all children with idiopathic clubfoot deformity. The purpose of this study was to compare the outcomes of physiotherapist-directed with surgeon-directed Ponseti cast treatment of idiopathic clubfeet.
Methods: We performed a retrospective cohort study of all patients with idiopathic clubfoot deformity treated from 2002 to 2006 and followed for a minimum of two years. Twenty-five children (thirty-four clubfeet) treated by surgeons were compared with ninety-five children (137 clubfeet) treated by a physiotherapist. The outcomes that were evaluated included the number of casts required, the rate of percutaneous Achilles tenotomy, the rate of recurrence, the failure rate, and the need for additional surgical procedures.
Results: At the time of presentation, the patients in the two groups were similar in terms of age, sex distribution, laterality of the clubfoot, and history of treatment. The mean duration of follow-up was thirty-four months in the physiotherapist-directed group and forty-eight months in the surgeon-directed group. No significant difference was found between the two groups with regard to the mean number of initial casts, the Achilles tenotomy rate, or the failure rate. Recurrence requiring additional treatment occurred in 14% of the feet in the physiotherapist-directed group and in 26% of the feet in the surgeon-directed group (p = 0.075). Additional procedures, including repeat Achilles tenotomy or a limited posterior or posteromedial release, were required in 6% of the feet in the physiotherapist-directed group and in 18% of those in the surgeon-directed group (p = 0.025).
Conclusions: In our institution, the Ponseti method of cast treatment of idiopathic clubfeet was as effective when it was directed by a physiotherapist as it was when it was directed by a surgeon, with fewer recurrences and a less frequent need for additional procedures in the physiotherapist-directed group. The introduction of the physiotherapist-supervised clubfoot clinic at our institution has been effective without compromising the quality of care of children with clubfoot deformity.
Level of Evidence: Therapeutic Level III. See Instructions to Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.