Clubfoot: A Special Need of Children from China – Part I

This is part one in a 4-part series on clubfoot.  Next week we will discuss the treatment for clubfoot, the prognosis and what you can expect as a parent of a child with clubfoot.  In addition, we will discuss the types of children who are available and what you can do if you are interested in adopting one of these children who are members of the In His Image program.
clubfeet - infantMany of the more than 2,000 children who are on the China special needs list have clubfoot.  In general, it is condition that can be readily treated and treatment may begin while the child is still in China.

What is Clubfoot?

It is called congenital talipes equinovarus,  and is one of the most common deformities of the lower limbs [reference 1].  It involves the bone and soft tissue, usually causing one or both feet to be turned sideways or upward. In most cases, a club foot twists the top of the child’s foot downward and inward. If it is severe, the foot will look like it is upside down.

This is congenital malformation, which means the child is born with the condition. Talipes equinovarus (TEV) is a type of clubfoot that occurs in 95% of children with the condition.

Who is Affected?

n about half the cases just one foot is affected, called unilateral clubfoot; the affected foot may be smaller than the “normal” foot.  If both feet are involved, then it is called bilateral clubfoot. In some cases the leg can also be affected, and one leg may be smaller than the other.

About 1 -2 children in 1,000 are born with clubfoot. Twice as many boys than girls are affected.  Although Nightlight is featuring children from China with clubfoot, the lowest incidence is in China and the highest  is in Polynesia. [2]

What causes clubfoot?

According to medical resources, the cause of clubfoot can include the positioning in the uterus. [3] In this case, the clubfoot is usually much less severe and may even correct itself, in which case it is not a true form of clubfoot.  Some believe that it is caused by vascular problems or a defect near chromosome 17.  If there is a family history, it is 17 times more likely to occur, and in 25% of cases there is a family history of clubfoot.  In some cases, clubfoot can be associated with other congenital abnormalities, such as spina bifida and connective tissue disorders.

Most commonly, a health care provider recognizes clubfoot after birth — just from looking at the shape and positioning of the newborn’s feet.  X-rays may indicate the severity of the deformity, and a child would be tested for other syndromes or health problems as well.


[1] Dobbs, M. B.& Gurnett, C. A. (2009) Update on clubfoot: Etiology and treatment.  Clinical Orthopeadics &Related Research. 467 (5) pp 1146-1153.
[2] Barrera, P. (Ed.). (2007). Nursing Care of Infants and Children (8th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Mosby Elsevier.
[3] Ball, J. W., Bindler, R. C., & Cowen, K. J. (2010). Child Health Nursing: Partnership with Children & Families. In (2nd,.) New York: Pearson.

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  1. [...] the past two blog posts, we discussed what clubfoot is, the types, and the treatments. Certainly what causes clubfoot may impact the type of treatment [...]


  2. [...] week we discussed what causes clubfoot.  Depending upon what caused the clubfoot and the severity of the clubfoot, there are different [...]