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BACKGROUND: Paediatric pes planus ('flat feet') is a common childhood condition with a reported prevalence of 14%. Flat feet can result in pain and altered gait. No optimal strategy for non-surgical management of paediatric flat feet has been identified.
OBJECTIVES: To assess the effectiveness of non-surgical interventions for treatment of paediatric pes planus (flat feet).
SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library), MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, Index to Theses, and Dissertation Abstracts (up to June 2009). SELECTION CRITERIA: All randomised and quasi-randomised trials of non-surgical interventions for paediatric pes planus were identified. The primary outcomes were pain reduction and adverse events; secondary outcomes included disability involving the foot, goniometric measurements, quality of life and patient comfort.
DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two authors independently extracted data and assessed the risk of bias of included trials.
MAIN RESULTS: Three trials involving 305 children were included in this review. Due to clinical heterogeneity, data were not pooled. All trials had potential for bias. Data from one trial (40 children with juvenile arthritis and foot pain) indicated that use of custom-made orthoses compared with supportive shoes alone resulted in significantly greater reduction in pain intensity (mean difference (MD) -1.5 points on a 10-point visual analogue scale (VAS), 95% CI -2.8 to -0.2; number need to treat to benefit (NNTB) 3, 95% CI 2 to 23), and reduction in disability (measured using the disability subscale of the Foot Function Index on a 100mm scale (MD -18.65mm, 95% CI -34.42 to -2.68mm). The second trial of seven to 11 year old children with bilateral flat feet (n = 178) found no difference in the number of participants with foot pain between custom-made orthoses, prefabricated orthoses and the control group who received no treatment. A third trial of one to five year olds with bilateral flat feet (n=129) did not report pain at baseline but reported the subjective impression of pain reduction after wearing shoes. No adverse effects were reported in the three trials.
AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: The evidence from randomised controlled trials is currently too limited to draw definitive conclusions about the use of non-surgical interventions for paediatric pes planus. Future high quality trials are warranted in this field. Only limited interventions commonly used in practice have been studied and there is much debate over the treatment of symptomatic and asymptomatic pes planus.
The pediatric flat foot is a frequent presentation in clinical practice, a common concern to parents and continues to be debated within professional ranks. As an entity, it is confused by varied classifications, the notion of well-intended prevention and unsubstantiated, if common, treatment. The available prevalence estimates are all limited by variable sampling, assessment measures and age groups and hence result in disparate findings (0.6-77.9%). Consistently, flat foot has been found to normally reduce with age. The normal findings of flat foot versus children's age estimates that approximately 45% of preschool children, and 15% of older children (average age 10 years) have flat feet. Few flexible flat feet have been found to be symptomatic. Joint hypermobility and increased weight or obesity may increase flat foot prevalence, independently of age. Most attempts at classification of flat foot morphology include the arch, heel position and foot flexibility. Usual assessment methods are footprint measures, X-rays and visual (scaled) observations. There is no standardized framework from which to evaluate the pediatric flat foot. The pediatric flat foot is often unnecessarily treated, being ill-defined and of uncertain prognosis. Contemporary management of the pediatric flat foot is directed algorithmically within this review, according to pain, age, flexibility; considering gender, weight, and joint hypermobility. When foot orthoses are indicated, inexpensive generic appliances will usually suffice. Customised foot orthoses should be reserved for children with foot pain and arthritis, for unusual morphology, or unresponsive cases. Surgery is rarely indicated for pediatric flat foot (unless rigid) and only at the failure of thorough conservative management. The assessment of the pediatric flatfoot needs to be considered with reference to the epidemiological findings, where there is consensus that pediatric flexible flat foot reduces with age and that most children are asymptomatic. Globally, there is need for a standard by which the pediatric flat foot is assessed classified and managed. Until then, assessment should utilize the available evidence-based management model, the p-FFP Future research needs to evaluate the pediatric flat foot from representative samples, of healthy and known disease-group children prospectively, and using validated assessment instruments. The preliminary findings of the benefits of foot exercises, and discrete investigation into the effects of shoes and footwear use are also warranted.
The pediatric flat foot frequently presents as a common parental concern in the health care setting. Foot orthoses are often used, yet benefits are uncertain and disputed, having been variably investigated. A recent Cochrane review cites limited evidence for nonsurgical interventions. This critical and structured review evaluates the effect of pediatric foot orthoses from assessment of the current literature.
A systematic search of the following electronic databases: Medline, CINAHL, AMED, and SPORTDiscus, using an array of search terms. A further search was also performed on relevant reference listings. Inclusion criteria were peer-reviewed journal articles, publication date from 1970 onwards, in the English language. Exclusion criteria were surgery interventions, adult subjects, rigid flat foot, articles based on opinion. A structured Quality Index was used to evaluate the research quality of articles. Three reviewers independently assessed the studies with disputes resolved by majority consensus. Studies were then grouped according to the outcome measures used.
Thirteen articles, from an initial 429, met the criteria for quality evaluation. The mean Quality Index score was 35% (range: 13% to 81%), indicative of generally poor and varying methodological quality.
The low quality of the studies negates definitive conclusions. Only 3/13 quality evaluations scored >50%; hence, evidence for efficacy of nonsurgical interventions for flexible pediatric flat feet is very limited. Future research needs validated foot type assessment, applicable outcome measures for the intervention, the use of control groups, allowance for independent effects of footwear, age range comparisons, larger samples, and prospective, longer follow-up.
There is very limited evidence for the efficacy of nonsurgical interventions for children with flexible flat feet. Clinicians need to consider the lack of good-quality evidence in their decision-making for the management of pediatric flat foot.
PURPOSE. To evaluate any correlation between various foot angles and their respective American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society (AOFAS) scores for pain, and the effectiveness of a medial arch orthosis.
METHODS. 81 children with bilateral symptomatic flatfoot were randomised into orthosis (n=55) and control (n=26) groups. The orthosis group consisted of 33 male and 22 female patients aged 36 to 204 (mean, 99) months and they were given a medial arch support. The control group consisted of 15 male and 11 female patients aged 36 to 192 (mean, 100) months and they were managed with analgesics. Foot angles including anteroposterior (AP) and lateral talocalcaneal (TC) angles, AP and lateral talo- first metatarsal (TFM) angles, calcaneal pitch angle (in lateral plane), and talonavicular (TN) angle were measured, as were AOFAS scores for pain for the forefoot, midfoot, and hindfoot.
RESULTS. After orthosis treatment, all AOFAS scores and all foot angles (except for the AP-TN angle) improved significantly. In the controls, all AOFAS scores (except for the midfoot score) and only the AP-TFM angle improved significantly. In the orthosis group, the AOFAS hindfoot score correlated positively with the lateral TC angle of the left foot (r=0.345, p=0.010) and negatively with the calcaneal pitch angle of the right foot (r=-0.33, p=0.015). In the control group, the lateral TFM angle of the left foot correlated negatively with the AOFAS forefoot (r=-0.566, p=0.003) and midfoot scores (r=-0.497, p=0.001), whereas the calcaneal pitch angle of the left foot correlated positively with the AOFAS forefoot score (r=0.497, p=0.010).
CONCLUSION. Medial arch support orthosis significantly improved AOFAS scores and foot angles. Calcaneal pitch angle and lateral TC angle correlated well with AOFAS hindfoot scores.