Children with flat feet experience pain and swelling but now there is a more permanent solution other than the conventional insoles and stretching exercises usually prescribed.
Children as young as 8 years old with flat feet have the option of Subtalar Arthroeresis. Done as a day surgery procedure, this is a surgical technique that has been previously used by foot and ankle surgeons in Singapore as a supplementary technique in the correction of degenerative flatfeet in adults.
What are flat feet?
A person with flat feet has low arches or no arches at all. The arch is the inside part of the foot that is usually raised off the ground when you stand, while the rest of the foot remains in contact with the ground. Our foot arch gives our foot stability as well as flexibility, allowing our feet to absorb impact, adapt to terrain and propel the foot.
“Not all children with flat feet will need surgery, especially if they do not experience any pain. For those with symptoms, the biggest advantage in having the surgery early is because the bones are still growing and this allows correction of the flat feet with a relatively simple procedure. This means the children can be spared the pain and swelling, have a normal childhood and be able to enjoy sports like their peers,” says Dr Tan Ken Jin, Consultant with the Division of Foot and Ankle Surgery at the NUH.
New surgery brings relief
The day surgery procedure takes less than an hour to perform. During the surgery, two keyhole incisions are made. One of the incisions is to release the tendon of the calf and the other to implant a specially designed arthroereisis screw. The implant is designed to block the foot joints from collapsing into a flat position. This will help the foot grow into its natural position during the child’s remaining years of growth. The procedure, which does not involve any bony cuts or joint fusions, is associated with a rapid recovery, little postoperative pain and preserves the mobility of the foot.
Overseas clinical studies have found that up to 96% of children reported significant improvement in their condition after surgery, including being free from pain. To date, surgeons at NUH have corrected 7 feet in 4 children.