A specialist physiotherapy service for children with talipes (commonly known as club foot) at the Royal Free Hospital has received rave reviews from parents in a survey.
The Royal Free is unusual for two reasons. First, the service is physiotherapist rather than surgeon led and second, we use the ‘Ponseti’ method of treatment. Traditional treatment for talipes involved major surgery, but the Ponseti method is a regime of physiotherapy and putting the legs and feet into plaster, only later resorting to surgery in cases where the feet are pointing down. This surgery is still far less intrusive than that which used to be carried out on such children.
“The results are fantastic,” said Nikki Shack, clinical specialist paediatric physiotherapist. “A talipes diagnosis can be very distressing for parents and it’s a real privilege to see these children right the way through the process. Our toddlers are walking now with no obvious signs of having a foot problem.
One of those patients is 18-month-old Lili Lotta who has been seen by the talipes service at the Royal Free since she was born. “We would be lost without them,” said her Dad Steffan Chandler. “You hear such horror stories about the old ways of dealing with it but she’s running around like a normal baby now, all my friends can’t believe how well she is doing.”
Lili had physiotherapy sessions for several months. After each session her legs were put in plaster, encouraging them to develop correctly. She then had minor surgery on her Achilles’ tendon after which she wore boots and bar 23 hours a day. These are boots connected with a rigid bar which hold the feet in the correct position. “She still wears her boots and bar in bed and we’ll be under the service until she’s four,” added Steffan. “We used to go into the hospital once a month but we’re down to once every six weeks now. It’s still a big commitment but Nikki and the staff make it much easier. I don’t know what we would have done without them.”
In a survey of parents, 100 per cent of them said that they were either ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with the information provided to them about the diagnosis and treatment of talipes, the flexibility and duration and appointments and the friendliness and professionalism of the physiotherapy staff. Other comments from the survey included praise for:
- Feel that our child is getting the best possible treatment.
- X is professional, involved and makes us feel positive.
- Continuity of care.
- Personal nature of explanation
- Support given
- X is helpful re problems making a smooth journey for us
- Reinforcement received for a very difficult decision
- Feel well looked after
- Early appointments so we don’t have to wait long
Further information about the Ponseti treatment method can be found at http://www.ponseti.org.uk/patients/index.htm