Life-changing treatment puts a spring in Elliot’s step

Life-changing treatment puts a spring in Elliot’s step

Life-changing treatment has helped transform the life of Brisbane schoolboy Elliot Baker, enabling him to play football like other children his age.

Born with clubfoot, the six-year-old underwent five years of non-invasive treatment at Mater Children's Private Brisbane Clubfoot Service to correct the position of both his feet.

Clubfoot is a common genetic condition where a baby is born with feet that turn in at the ankle. The soft tissue below the knees is abnormal and causes tightening at the back of the heel, making the feet curl.

For Wooloowin parents Emma and James Baker, it came as a “complete shock” to learn about Elliot’s deformity at their 20-week pregnancy scan.

“I had heard about clubfoot and I was slightly alarmed about what treatment might be involved,” Emma said.

“When Elliot was born it was very obvious he had deformed feet, and we started treatment three weeks after he was born.”

Mater Children's Private Brisbane Clubfoot Service Advanced Practice Physiotherapist Tracey Bulow said the clinic had seen an increase in patients each year, with 594 consultations in 2021, including 74 new patients.

Tracey said the Mater Maternal Foetal Medicine team worked closely with the clinic, referring pregnant women for an antenatal consultation after detecting clubfoot during an ultrasound.

“We are a multidisciplinary clinic where families can see a physiotherapist, nurse and orthopaedic surgeon all at the one appointment,” Tracey said.

“Families travel from local, rural and remote areas to attend the clinic.”

Emma said the team at Mater Hospital Brisbane, including Paediatric Orthopaedic surgeon Dr David Bade, had provided “life-changing” treatment for Elliot.

Dr Bade used a technique known as the Ponseti method, now a standard treatment for clubfoot.

One of three surgeons helping to transform the lives of little patients at Mater Children's Private Brisbane Clubfoot Service, Dr Bade said treating patients born with clubfoot had improved from 20 years ago with the Ponseti method.

“The method involved having Elliot’s feet gently stretched, and a series of plaster casts applied to correct them,” Dr Bade said.

“This was followed by a small procedure to release the Achilles tendon followed by using a foot brace, made up of two shoes attached to a bar, to keep Elliot’s feet in place.

“The method is 95 per cent effective at achieving a foot which is straight, pain free and functional. It has revolutionised the way we work, we don’t have to surgically cut into young feet,” Dr Bade said.

“It can take about four to six years for a patient’s feet to be corrected.”

Emma said without treatment Elliot would have been very limited with his movement.

“Now he is playing rugby and cricket and loves all types of sport,” she said.

“It’s so nice when you go to follow up appointments and see other children like Elliot running down the corridors with excitement, it’s really uplifting.”

Dr Bade said it was important for parents to be educated about clubfoot following the diagnosis.

“It can be quite a surprise when they are born and parents are not properly informed,” he said.

Tracey said Mater Foundation has supported access to life-changing treatment for three international families prior to COVID -19.



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