Parents of infants born with clubfeet may be reassured that their baby, if otherwise normal, when treated by expert hands will have normal looking feet with normal function for all practical purposes. The well-treated clubfoot is no handicap and is fully compatible with a normal, active life.
- Ignaçio Ponseti (1914-2009)
Dr Ponseti pioneered his method in the 1950s after researching the after-long term effects of clubfoot surgery. His findings were that, in adulthood, patients who had been operated on often had feet with stiffness, pain, arthritis and limited mobility. And in many cases, further surgery was required. By studying the anatomy and functions of a baby’s foot, he discovered why previous casting methods had been unsuccessful and started manipulating the foot differently. Since then he told us (in April 2003) he has treated over 2 000 clubfeet.
Dr Ponseti and a team of orthopaedic surgeons at the University of Iowa Hospital have been doing the treatment ever since. There are testimonials and documented follow-ups on the patients treated from more than 60 years, and they all have normal, functional and pain-free feet.
In the beginning, Iowa City was the only place where the Ponseti Method was done. Although Dr Ponseti presented his results and published a paper in 1962, for many years doctors were either uninterested in changing from surgery, or thought Dr Ponseti was the only doctor who could do it successfully. Dr Ponseti published a book on his method in 1996, and since around 2000, the internet had a major impact on getting the word out to parents and surgeons. Dr Ponseti told us that parents are the major driving force for the method being used more widely.
Dr Ponseti always shared his expertise with interested doctors. There were a few early advocates and after his book was published, many more learned the method. Since 2007, the Ponseti International Association’s faculty trainers have trained many more doctors worldwide. Many doctors changed from the surgery they were taught, and use the Ponseti method with good results. It is now the gold standard of treatment, endorsed by paediatric orthopaedic societies and clubfoot organisations worldwide.