In clinical practice, clubfeet feel stiffer compared to healthy feet. Furthermore, the clinical impression is that stiffer clubfeet have a higher tendency to relapse. Until now, no objective measure has been available to determine the stiffness of clubfeet. The goal of the current project was to objectively quantify ankle and subtalar joint stiffness in clubfeet patients and to compare this stiffness between clubfeet patients and healthy controls using a newly developed measurement device.
The newly developed Torque-Displacement-Handpiece in combination with an adjusted Abduction Dorsiflexion Mechanism clubfoot-brace, made it possible to move a foot over two rotational axis, while continuously capturing the applied torque and the achieved angulation. Based on this information, stiffness of the ankle and subtalar joint were assessed for 11 clubfoot patients with 17 clubfeet and 11 healthy subjects with 22 healthy feet.
With the Torque-Displacement-Handpiece measuring device it was possible to measure torque, angulation and stiffness in a reliable and precise manner. Clubfoot patients showed less angulation and a higher stiffness for measurements over the ADM subtalar axis compared to controls. After adjusting for shoe size, the stiffness for measurements over the ADM tibiotalar axis was also significantly higher in clubfeet than controls.
Overall, these results indicate that clubfoot patients have a higher ankle and subtalar joint stiffness in the affected joint compared to healthy controls. In the future, the Torque-Displacement-Handpiece could be used to monitor stiffness of clubfeet during treatment, and as such, play a potential role in the early detection of relapsing clubfeet.
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