Background: Clubfoot treatment commonly fails and often results in impaired quality of life. An understanding of the soft-tissue abnormalities associated with both treatment-responsive and treatment-resistant clubfoot is important to improving the diagnosis of clubfoot, the prognosis for patients, and treatment.
Methods: Twenty patients with clubfoot treated with the Ponseti method were recruited for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of their lower extremities. Among these were seven patients (six unilateral cases) with treatment-responsive clubfoot and thirteen patients (five unilateral cases) with treatment-resistant clubfoot. Demographic information and physical examination findings were recorded. A descriptive analysis of the soft-tissue abnormalities was performed for both patient cohorts. For the patients with unilateral clubfoot, we calculated the percentage difference in cross-sectional area between the affected limb and the unaffected limb in terms of muscle, subcutaneous fat, intracompartment fat, and total area. With use of the Wilcoxon signed-rank test, we compared inter-leg differences in cross-sectional areas and the intracompartment adiposity index (IAI) between treatment-responsive and treatment-resistant groups. The IAI characterizes the cross-sectional area of fat within a muscle compartment.
Results: Extensive soft-tissue abnormalities were more present in patients with treatment-resistant clubfoot than in patients with treatment-responsive clubfoot. Treatment-resistant clubfoot abnormalities included excess epimysial fat and intramuscular fat replacement as well as unique patterns of hypoplasia in specific muscle groups that were present within a subset of patients. Among the unilateral cases, treatment-resistant clubfoot was associated with a significantly greater difference in muscle area between the affected and unaffected limb (−47.8%) compared with treatment-responsive clubfoot (−26.6%) (p = 0.02), a significantly greater difference in intracompartment fat area between the affected and unaffected limb (402.6%) compared with treatment-responsive clubfoot (9%) (p = 0.01), and a corresponding higher inter-leg IAI ratio (8.7) compared with treatment-responsive clubfoot (1.5) (p = 0.01).
Conclusions: MRI demonstrated a range of soft-tissue abnormalities in patients, including unique patterns of specific muscle-compartment aplasia/hypoplasia that were present in patients with treatment-resistant clubfoot and not present in patients with treatment-responsive clubfoot. Correlations between MRI, physical examination, and treatment responsiveness may aid in the development of a prognostic classification system for clubfoot.
Level of Evidence: Prognostic Level IV. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.
Investigation performed at the Departments of Orthopaedic Surgery, Pediatrics, Neurology, and Radiology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri
A commentary by Ken N. Kuo, MD, and Peter A. Smith, MD, is linked to the online version of this article at jbjs.org.
Disclosure: One or more of the authors received payments or services, either directly or indirectly (i.e., via his or her institution), from a third party in support of an aspect of this work. None of the authors, or their institution(s), have had any financial relationship, in the thirty-six months prior to submission of this work, with any entity in the biomedical arena that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. In addition, no author has had any other relationships, or has engaged in any other activities, that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. The complete Disclosures of Potential Conflicts of Interest submitted by authors are always provided with the online version of the article.
- Copyright © 2014 by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Incorporated
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