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Surgery Combats Flat Arches in Children's Feet

There is good news for children suffering from severely collapsed arches, or flat feet, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association (September 2001). An improved surgical technique known as the Smith subtalar arthroereisis implant (STA-peg) corrects fallen arches in children's feet, reduces the risk of complications and has a 90% success rate.

Fallen arches or flat feet, is a condition in which one or both feet don't have a normal arch. It is caused by loose joint connections and baby fat between the foot bones. Children's arches should form by the age of 2 or 3, but for some they never do. In most cases there is no need for concern, a simple shoe insert, or orthotic, will do, but if the child complains of severe foot or ankle pain or suffers from night cramps, pain when walking and/or standing, or lower back and knee pain, surgery may be required.

In the study, twenty-one children (4 to 16 years) suffering from complications due to fallen arches underwent surgery. During the procedure, the STA-peg, or polyethylene disk about the size of a pencil eraser, is inserted between two joints in the foot. The peg creates stability for the muscles so they do not weaken causing the foot to fall flat. When the child reaches maturity (18-22 years) doctors advise the peg be removed.

"There are advantages to using the STA-peg in children's feet," said the study's primary author, Patricia Forg, DPM of San Diego CA. "A growing child's bone structure is able to adapt to a more corrected position after surgery. Another advantage, is that the peg is not inserted into a connecting joint. If complications arise it can be removed easily."

All the children showed an improvement in walking patterns after surgery. Fifteen of the 21 children felt they had at least 90% improvement and would highly recommend the STA-peg procedure. All but two of the children are now involved in normal sports activity.; Source: American Podiatric Medical Association