To correct a hammertoe, your doctor may perform a procedure called an arthrodesis (fusion) of the interphalangeal joint of the toe. A small portion of bone is removed at the site of the fusion, the toe is straightened, and a small implant will be placed in the toe. The implant will hold the bones in the proper position during the healing process. The following video shows a typical fixation method.
What to expect with your surgery
The day of the surgery
On the day of the surgery, your podiatric surgeon will visit with you and answer any additional questions you may have. You will also meet with the anesthesiologist to discuss what type of anesthesia you will have for the surgery. A nurse will typically start an IV so the anesthesiologist can administer any necessary medication during the procedure. Depending on the number of toes being done, your surgery will generally last under an hour. Your doctor will numb your foot after the surgery and will give you a prescription for pain medication. You will also be given detailed instructions on how to care for your foot.
Most of the pain and inflammation from the surgery will be during week 1. It is very important to wear your surgical shoe at all times and to elevate and rest your foot as much as possible. You will leave your bandages on your foot and you should not get your foot wet. When you return to the office for your first appointment, your doctor will take x-rays and change the dressing. Sutures are not typically taken out at this point.
There is usually less pain and inflammation during this week. You will continue to wear your surgical shoe and keep your foot dry. Activity may generally be increased slightly depending on how much inflammation is present. At the second week appointment, your doctor will usually take out your sutures and you will likely be able to get your foot wet again.
You will still need to wear your surgical shoe during this time period. Activity can usually be increased slightly to tolerance.
Your doctor will usually take an x-ray at this time to ensure that the bone is healing normally. If things are progressing as expected, most people should be able to get back into a walking shoe at week 4. Bone healing will continue throughout the next month.
Week 8 and longer
Most of the bone healing is usually done at week 8. Your body will continue to “remodel” the bone where the fusion was performed. Although the majority of patients may begin to get back their regular activities at this point, some may have swelling and/or pain that may persist longer.