Hammer toe occurs when there is a shortening of the tendon that controls toe movement. This causes the middle joint of the toe to be bent upward and the outer joint downwards. The misshapen toe resembles a hammer.
A hammertoe correction is considered when:
Other treatments have failed to bring about results.
The malformed toe has assumed an awkward position and is causing pain.
The deformity makes walking difficult.
The position of the toe causes breakdown of skin. This can increase the risk of developing a bone infection.
Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have the correction, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
Excessive swelling, although the toe will normally be swollen for 4-8 weeks following surgery
Recurrence of hammer toe
Nerve or blood vessel injury to the toe
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
Local anesthesia is often used. It will numb the area. Spinal anesthesia may also be used. This anesthesia will make your lower body numb.
Description of the Procedure
Several surgical options are available for hammer toe correction. Some corrections can be made with changes to soft tissue (eg, tendons); others need to be made to the bone.
This is usually best in patients under 30, with limited toe deformity. A cut is made in the skin and the tendon is released. Sometimes it is reattached to a different area of the bone. The changes in soft tissue will allow the toe to relax and eliminate the deformity.
Two common methods of hammer toe correction on the bones themselves are joint arthroplasty and joint fusion. The type of procedure used depends on how bad the deformity is. A combination of procedures may be needed. In both cases, a cut in the skin is made over the toe joint.
During an arthroplasty, part of the bones on both sides of the middle toe joint may be removed. This will allow the toe to uncurl.
During a fusion, the ends of the toe bones are removed. The bones are then repositioned. The repositioning is usually held together with a pin placed within the bone. The pin may be removed after 3-4 weeks. Other changes to the anatomy of the foot due to the hammer toe may also be corrected at this time.
In any method, the doctor may close the incision with stitches. Dressings will be applied to hold the toe(s) in proper position.
How Long Will It Take?
This depends on the procedure and the number of toes corrected.
Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia prevents pain during the surgery. Your doctor will give you medicine to manage pain after the surgery.
During the first couple of days, keep your foot elevated most of the time.
Limit standing and walking, and stay off your foot as much as possible.
Use crutches or wear a special open-toed, wooden-soled shoe, as
directed by your doctor.
The corrected toe may be slightly longer or shorter than before surgery. The toe will not move as much as a normal toe. Expect some swelling and redness, which may persist for several months. Your dressing may need to be adjusted as swelling decreases. If it appears that the deformity may recur, your doctor may choose to continue with dressings for another 2-4 weeks.
Select shoes with plenty of space for your toes. Poorly fitting shoes contribute to hammer toe development.
Call Your Doctor
After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
Signs of infection, including fever and chills
Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or any discharge from the incision site
Pain that you cannot control with the medicines you have been given
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a