A hammer toe is a foot condition characterized by the unusual bending of the middle joint of a toe. The deformation usually affects the toe closest to the big toe and is commonly caused by shoes that do not fit perfectly. Prolonged exposure to such conditions causes the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the toes to become stiff and short, thus causing sideways or downward bending. If the condition is not severe, tape or straightening splints can remedy the situation. However, if the toes are inflexible, surgery may be necessary. Here are the different surgical procedures a podiatrist can use to treat hammer toe:
Fusion is a type of hammer toe surgery that involves cutting out parts of the toe joint to straighten it. The procedure also involves cutting the affected tendons and ligaments in the toe. Next, the podiatrist uses pins to hold the bones in the right position. Full recovery usually takes several weeks, during which the patient is expected to use aids, like crutches when walking and avoid exerting excess pressure on the foot. The pins are later removed once the patient recovers; this is after the joint fuses.
Another alternative entails joint resection, the preferred remedy among patients with a rigid hammer toe. The surgeon cuts tendons and ligaments in addition to excising the end of the toe bone. The process allows the toes to elongate and take shape. The podiatrist inserts pins into the toe to align the bones, similar to fusion procedures. The podiatrist may recommend specially designed shoes to aid healing and prevent unintended injury during recovery. Subsequently, the surgery can have a shortening or elongating effect on the length of the toe.
A tendon transfer is recommended for patients with a flexible hammer toe deformity. During the hammer toe surgery, the podiatrist stretches the tendon and yanks it over the joint as a straightening measure. Afterward, the tendon keeps the toe's bones and muscles straight, allowing them to heal. The podiatrist may also recommend exercises to help weakened toe muscles regain strength and foster healing.
Rods and Screws
Lastly, a patient can undergo hammer toe surgery that entails inserting permanent screws and rods into the toe, ensuring it remains straight. The screws and rods are inserted permanently to mitigate follow-up surgeries to remove them. Moreover, they reduce the chances of the condition re-emerging in the future. The screws and rods also offer additional structural reinforcement in an accident.