Standing and walking age in children with idiopathic clubfoot: French physiotherapy versus Ponseti method

J Child Orthop. 2019 Oct 1;13(5):471-477. doi: 10.1302/1863-2548.13.190097.


Purpose: A mild delay in gross motor milestones and walking age has been reported in infants with clubfoot. The influence of different treatments on motor development has been poorly investigated. Some parents and physical therapists express concern that the Ponseti method (PM) and its constraints (abduction brace, casts) would affect development more than the French physical therapy method (FM) due to greater immobilization and lesser stimulation.The purpose of this study was to evaluate achievement of three motor milestones (pull-to-standing, cruising and independent walking) in two groups of clubfoot patients treated at two experienced institutes respectively with the PM and FM.

Methods: In all, 52 consecutive infants (full-term at birth, mean age at beginning of treatment 24.3 days (sd 10), mean Dimeglio score 12 (sd 3.4)) were prospectively enrolled (26 patients per centre) and followed up to walking age recording milestones.

Results: The two groups were not different in terms of age at the beginning of treatment (p = 0.067) and rate of tenotomy. Age at tenotomy was significantly lower in the PM group (p = 0.000). Severity (p = 0.004) and number of bilateral cases (p = 0.012) were higher in the PM group. A non-significant difference was found for age of achievement of pull-to-standing (p = 0.109), cruising (p = 0.253) and independent ambulation (p = 0.349) between the two groups. Overall, milestones were achieved approximately two months later than normal population. Sex, severity, laterality and need of tenotomy were not found to significantly influence milestones.

Conclusion: Our results confirmed that infants with clubfoot are expected to have a minimum delay in motor development. Infants treated with the PM and those treated with the FM did not show significant differences in gross motor milestones achievement at walking age.

Level of evidence: Level II - Prospective comparative therapeutic studies.

Keywords: French method; Ponseti method; clubfoot; gross motor milestones; walking age.