Remote Monitoring of Clubfoot Treatment With Digital Photographs in Low Resource Settings: Is It Accurate?

Background: Clinical examination and functional assessment are often the first steps to assess outcome of clubfoot treatment. Clinical photographs may be an adjunct used to assess treatment outcomes in lower resourced settings where physical review by a specialist is limited. We aimed to evaluate the diagnostic performance of photographic images of patients with clubfoot in assessing outcome following treatment.

Methods: In this single-centre diagnostic accuracy study, we included all children with clubfoot from a cohort treated between 2011 and 2013, in 2017. Two physiotherapists trained in clubfoot management calculated the Assessing Clubfoot Treatment (ACT) score for each child to decide if treatment was successful or if further treatment was required. Photographic images were then taken of 79 feet. Two blinded orthopaedic surgeons assessed three sets of images of each foot (n = 237 in total) at two time points (two months apart). Treatment for each foot was rated as ‘success’, ‘borderline’ or ‘failure’. Intra- and inter-observer variation for the photographic image was assessed. Sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values were calculated for the photographic image compared to the ACT score.

Results: There was perfect correlation between clinical assessment and photographic evaluation of both raters at both time-points in 38 (48%) feet. The raters demonstrated acceptable reliability with re-scoring photographs (rater 1, k = 0.55; rater 2, k = 0.88). Thirty percent (n = 71) of photographs were assessed as poor quality image or sub-optimal patient position. Sensitivity of outcome with photograph compared to ACT score was 83.3%-88.3% and specificity ranged from 57.9%-73.3%.

Conclusion: Digital photography may help to confirm, but not exclude, success of clubfoot treatment. Future work to establish photographic parameters as an adjunct to assessing treatment outcomes, and guidance on a standardised protocol for photographs, may be beneficial in the follow up of children who have treated clubfoot in isolated communities or lower resourced settings.

Clubfoot treatment in 2015: a global perspective.

Clubfoot affects around 174 000 children born annually, with approximately 90% of these in low-income and middle-income countries (LMIC). Untreated clubfoot causes life-long impairment, affecting individuals’ ability to walk and participate in society. The minimally invasive Ponseti treatment is highly effective and has grown in acceptance globally. The objective of this cross-sectional study is to quantify the numbers of countries providing services for clubfoot and children accessing these.In 2015-2016, expected cases of clubfoot were calculated for all countries, using an incidence rate of 1.24/1000 births. Informants were sought from all LMIC, and participants completed a standardised survey about services for clubfoot in their countries in 2015. Data collected were analysed using simple numerical analysis, country coverage levels, trends over time and by income group. Qualitative data were analysed thematically.Responses were received from 55 countries, in which 79% of all expected cases of clubfoot were born. More than 24 000 children with clubfoot were enrolled for Ponseti treatment in 2015. Coverage was less than 25% in the majority of countries. There were higher levels of response and coverage within the lowest income country group. 31 countries reported a national programme for clubfoot, with the majority provided through public-private partnerships.This is the first study to describe global provision of, and access to, treatment services for children with clubfoot. The numbers of children accessing Ponseti treatment for clubfoot in LMIC has risen steadily since 2005. However, coverage remains low, and we estimate that less than 15% of children born with clubfoot in LMIC start treatment. More action to promote the rollout of national clubfoot programmes, build capacity for treatment and enable access and adherence to treatment in order to radically increase coverage and effectiveness is essential and urgent in order to prevent permanent disability caused by clubfoot.

Cost-effectiveness of club-foot treatment in low-income and middle-income countries by the Ponseti method.

Club foot is a common congenital deformity affecting 150?000-200?000 children every year. Untreated patients end up walking on the side or back of the affected foot, with severe social and economic consequences. Club foot is highly treatable by the Ponseti method, a non-invasive technique that has been described as highly suitable for use in resource-limited settings. To date, there has been no evaluation of its cost-effectiveness ratio, defined as the cost of averting one disability-adjusted life year (DALY), a composite measure of the impact of premature death and disability. In this study, we aimed to calculate the average cost-effectiveness ratio of the Ponseti method for correcting club foot in sub-Saharan Africa.Using data from 12 sub-Saharan African countries provided by the international non-profit organisation CURE Clubfoot, which implements several Ponseti treatment programmes around the world, we estimated the average cost of the point-of-care treatment for club foot in these countries. We divided the cost of treatment with the average number of DALYs that can be averted by the Ponseti treatment, assuming treatment is successful in 90% of patients.We found the average cost of the Ponseti treatment to be US$167 per patient. The average number of DALYs averted was 7.42, yielding a cost-effectiveness ratio of US$22.46 per DALY averted. To test the robustness of our calculation different variables were used and these yielded a cost range of US$5.28-29.75. This is less than a tenth of the cost of many other treatment modalities used in resource-poor settings today.The Ponseti method for the treatment of club foot is cost-effective and practical in a low-income country setting. These findings could be used to raise the priority for implementing Ponseti treatment in areas where patients are still lacking access to the life-changing intervention.