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Hammertoe - Overview

Hammertoe is an orthopedic deformity of the proximal interfalangeal joint of the second, third or the fourth toe. The deformity causes the permanent bending of the affected toe and the toes resemble hammer hence the name of the condition. This medical condition is usually caused by prolonged wearing of non-fitting footwear. The muscles of the affected toes tend to shorten in time if the foot is in tight shoe. One more cause of hammertoes is tendon imbalance. The typical sign of hammer toe includes calluses and corns which are located on the middle joint and the toe tip. Accompanying symptoms are toe cramps, pain and discomfort especially during walking.

This medical condition can be treated conservatively and surgically. In early stage hammertoe can be successfully treated with splinting, toe exercising and wearing corn pads together with comfortable shoes. In advances stage patients can only benefit from surgical procedure. This surgery includes straightening of the affected toe and correction of the tendons. In some cases fusion of the joints is performed.

Hammertoe Surgery

Prior the surgery the patients undergo X ray of the foot. This way the surgeon has appropriate insight in the level of deformity. The goal of the surgery is straightening of the deformed joints. The surgery may include fusion of the joints, cutting of the bone and it may also include rearranging of the tendons.

Which type of the surgery is going to be applied basically depends on the severity of the deformity and the basic structure of a patient's foot. If hammertoe is mild and flexible the surgeon performs tendon release. The tendons of the joint are cut and the joint is easily straightened. Another surgical approach for hammertoe includes removal of the bone from the rigid toe. Then the toe is straightened and the tendons are cut and rearranged as well. This surgery is known as arthroplasty or phalangeal head resection. If there is a damage to the nerves or muscles surgeons commonly perform a joint fusion. Joint fusion prevents recurrence of the disease. During this procedure a small part of the bone is resected and a wire is placed to hold the joint. This wire is eventually removed and the joint fuses completely.

Hammertoe Surgery - Recovery Time

The toe is wrapped and some surgical techniques include wires which hold the toe in desirable position. The patients are advised to rest in bed for some time. Increased pressure onto the operated toes leads to pain. This is why patients are supposed to use crutches for certain period of time. Doctors generally advise postoperative shoes with stiff sole. These are supposed to be worn for 2 or 3 weeks.

Complications of Hammertoe Surgery

Pain and swelling typically occur after hammertoe surgery and they withdraw spontaneously. The pain is relieved by pain killers. The leg is supposed to be elevated. This position helps in drainage of the excessive fluid.

Some of the potential complications of hammertoe surgery include infections, blood clotting and chronic pain. Chronic pain is caused by accidental damage of certain nerves.

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