Our Town Iowa City - Making Medical Strides

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By Becky Ogann

IOWA CITY - Medical breakthroughs happen all over the country. But one done right here in Iowa has a little more meaning.

Here at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, health care breakthroughs happen every day. Almost 60 years ago, doctor ponseti made such a break-through. He pioneered a non-surgical method to correct club feet in babies. And at the age of 93, Dr. Ponseti still performs the procedure.

Thousands of little feet, countless hugs and smiles from parents, this is the result of Dr. Ponseti's work. He fixes feet, little feet, and gives them a chance to walk freely.

Babies with club feet develop stronger foot muscles around the 18th week of pregnancy causing the foot to contract which produces the deformity.

Dr. Ponseti studied this joint, and developed a form of casting, allowing him to straighten the foot without the need of surgery.

"Surgical method is not good at all because in order to straighten the foot with surgery you have to cut the main ligament of the foot and open the joints," said Dr. Ignacio Ponseti, orthopedic surgeon.

And for baby martin surgery was the recommendation from doctors in Canada.

"I was just asking for an opinion really to see how long we should wait for surgery and they were saying at home that they were going to operate on his feet, and to my great surprise and great delight Dr. Ponseti e-mailed back and said come to Iowa and that he would treat him,” said Lisa O'Driscol, mother of patient.

Dr. Ponseti published his findings in a book, gaining the acceptance of doctors worldwide. Now, instead of picking up the knife, doctors get their hands wet with plaster.

"So I had a late success in this and its very pleasant for me to treat clubbed feet, I can do it well, mothers like it, families like it," said Ponseti.

"His feet have never looked this good, they actually look like feet," said O’Driscol.

And if you are wondering Dr. Ponseti did enjoy a few years of retirement 20-years ago.

Back then he was only allowed to practice until age 70, but when that law changed he was back fixing feet.

"There are days I don't know how he does it. I think I'm tired at the end of the day and I always have to remember add fifty years to that," said Maria Miller, staff nurse.

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