Achilles tenotomy as an office procedure: safety and efficacy as part of the Ponseti serial casting protocol for clubfoot

J Pediatr Orthop. 2012 Jun;32(4):412-5. doi: 10.1097/BPO.0b013e31825611a6.


Background: Ponseti demonstrated the correction of clubfoot in infants using manipulation followed by the application of well-molded long-leg plaster casts. Percutaneous Achilles tenotomy was recommended to correct residual equinus contracture in approximately 80% of cases. In the current study, we evaluated the safety of this practice for the treatment of clubfoot when performed as an "office procedure" without sedation or general anesthesia during the final stage of the serial casting protocol.

Patients and methods: We retrospectively collected data regarding babies who underwent serial manipulation and casting according to the Ponseti protocol for the treatment of clubfoot. All babies managed in the outpatient clinic between 2006 and 2010 were included. Tenotomy was indicated when the forefoot was completely corrected and if the hind-foot showed rigid equinus. Tenotomy was performed by a single scalpel stab in the outpatient clinic, using topical and local anesthesia (without general anesthesia or sedation). The cast was then applied and kept on for 3 weeks. Babies were discharged home after 1 hour of supervision. Surgical reports regarding Achilles tenotomy were reviewed, and data were collected from postoperative notes. We specifically looked for perioperative complications, recovery unit notes, and hospital readmission.

Results: Fifty-six babies (83 feet) were included in the current study. There were 40 males and 16 females, and 27 of them had bilateral clubfoot. Three babies (0.5%) had complex (syndrome-related) clubfoot; familial risk was known in 6 (11%) babies. Forty-one (73%) babies were indicated for Achilles tenotomy. Tenotomy was performed after an average of 5 casts (range, 3 to 9). No adverse events were related to local anesthesia and/or the procedure itself, and there was no delay in discharge in any of the operated babies. One baby was evaluated in the emergency room 3 days after the procedure because of (unfounded) parental concern of swelling inside the cast. All other babies had an uneventful course. Retenotomy was performed in 7 babies (12 feet); 2 of them (4 feet) had complex clubfoot. All of these babies (ie, their parents), except 1, had moderate to poor compliance with the treatment protocol.

Conclusions: Tenotomy as an office procedure using topical and local anesthesia is a safe procedure. It does not incur a substantial rate of readmission to the emergency room, either because of parental concern or because of actual complications. The need for retenotomy is related to a low compliance with the treatment protocol.

Level of evidence: Level II.

MeSH terms

  • Achilles Tendon / surgery*
  • Ambulatory Surgical Procedures / methods
  • Anesthesia, Local / methods
  • Casts, Surgical*
  • Clubfoot / surgery*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Reoperation / statistics & numerical data
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tenotomy / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome