Visionary physician pioneers alternative clubfoot treatment

October 27, 1999

For more information, contact Michael Sondergard, University of Iowa Health Care, 319/356-7123; Tom Moore, University of Iowa Health Care, 319-356-3945; or Lorna Bennett, Porter Novelli, 312-856-8857. Visionary Physician Pioneers Alternative Clubfoot Treatment Awareness among parents, physicians goal of educational crusade IOWA CITY, IA, October 27, 1999 - In an effort to help children who have one of the most common birth defects, University of Iowa Health Care orthopaedic surgeon Ignacio Ponseti, MD, two orthopaedic colleagues and a group of parent supporters have begun an educational crusade to increase awareness and acceptance of a non-surgical, low-cost treatment for clubfoot deformity. This effort now is shifting into high gear through teaching clinics in California and Indiana designed to train physicians in the "Ponseti Method" of treatment. In addition, the University of Iowa Health Care orthopaedists are launching a new web site designed to increase public awareness and understanding of clubfoot and non-surgical treatment options. These efforts are intended to recruit more supporters among physicians and parents for this highly effective method for treating clubfoot, developed over a 50-year period by Ignacio Ponseti, MD. He and UI colleagues Stuart Weinstein, MD, and Fred Deitz, MD are internationally recognized for their skill in the non-operative treatment of clubfoot. -- more -- All three perform the technique in a clubfoot clinic at the Children's Hospital of Iowa, located at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. John E. Herzenberg, MD, associate professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and Pediatrics at the University of Maryland Medical School, recently became familiar with the Ponseti Method. "The overwhelming majority of orthopaedic surgeons in North America don't understand Ponseti's method, and they tend to dismiss it out of hand," Herzenberg said. "This is a shame because there are thousands of babies who could be treated in such a way as to avoid excessive surgery. I began using Dr. Ponseti's method two and half years ago. My only regret is that I didn't learn this technique earlier." As part of his effort to promote the technique, Ponseti will conduct teaching clinics at the University of California, San Francisco. At the invitation of UCSF faculty member Eliana Delgado, MD, he will demonstrate the method to a group of San Francisco area orthopaedic specialists by treating 20 infants with clubfoot. Ponseti has conducted similar teaching clinics around the world, including academic centers in Aberdeen, Scotland; Montpelier and Toulouse, France; Sunderland, England; and Barcelona, Spain. Ponseti also will discuss the technique at a similar class in Indiana and at upcoming medical conferences in 2000. The Ponseti Method for clubfoot treatment is a non-surgical procedure that begins with the orthopaedist's understanding of foot anatomy mechanics. The technique involves manual manipulation and straightening of the foot and the application of toe-to- -- more -- groin plaster casts. These casts are changed weekly after the clinician manipulates softened foot ligaments to gradually achieve near-normal muscle and bone alignment. Five or six cast changes are sufficient to correct most clubfeet. The method offers an alternative to the series of surgeries traditionally prescribed for many patients. Despite the success of the method, Ponseti, Weinstein and Dietz continue to struggle against time and tradition to raise awareness of it. Only a handful of orthopaedic surgeons currently use this non-surgical method and others know little about it - a fact that has eighty-five year-old Ponseti and parents of children with clubfoot concerned. The new University of Iowa Health Care website, launched this month, will link together physicians and parents via an electric chat forum. The clubfoot site, www.uihealthcare.com/DeptsClinicalServices/Clubfoot/, is linked to University of Iowa Health Care's internationally recognized Virtual Hospital web site. The site offers answers to frequently asked questions by parents, in-depth clubfoot and Ponseti Method information for both physicians and parents, a 20-minute video digitized for web use and a chat forum where parents of children with clubfoot can communicate with families who have experienced the Ponseti Method of treatment. "It is my hope that vehicles such as this class and the new web site will inspire other physicians and parents to more actively and vocally promote non-surgical treatment for clubfoot," said Ponseti. "Ultimately, each child with clubfoot should have the least traumatic and most effective treatment possible." -- more -- A former Spanish Army surgeon, Ponseti began his medical career treating hundreds of orthopaedic wounds during the Spanish Civil War. After the war, he came to the United States and studied under Arthur Steindler, MD, then head of UI orthopaedic surgery. During the 1950s, Ponseti took special interest in children with clubfoot and began to develop the Ponseti Method. He has dedicated his professional career to helping children born with clubfoot and other orthopaedic conditions. University of Iowa Health Care is a collaborative partnership between the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and the University of Iowa College of Medicine. The UI Hospitals and Clinics is one of the largest university-owned teaching hospitals in the nation and consistently ranks one of America's best. The UI College of Medicine earns high national rankings for excellence in graduate education and quality biomedical research. Its researchers are world leaders in areas ranging from cardiovascular studies and brain mapping to age-related macular degeneration and cochlear implant research and implantation. Together, the UI Hospitals and Clinics and College of Medicine provide world-class patient care, health care education and leading biomedical research to the people of Iowa and beyond. # # #
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Porter Novelli

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