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Definition

Hammer toe correction is surgery to straighten a hammer toe. This is when the middle joint of a toe is bent up and the outer joint is bent down.

Hammer toe
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Reasons for Procedure

This surgery is done on people who are not helped by other methods. It is also done when the toe is causing pain and problems walking.

Possible Complications

Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:

  • Excess bleeding
  • Problems from anesthesia, such as wheezing or sore throat
  • Infection
  • Nerve or blood vessel injury to the toe
  • The hammer toe returns

Things that may raise the risk of problems are:

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

The surgical team may meet with you to talk about:

  • Anesthesia options
  • Any allergies you may have
  • Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before surgery
  • Fasting before surgery, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
  • Whether you need a ride to and from surgery
  • Tests that will need to be done before surgery, such as X-rays

Anesthesia

The doctor may give:

  • General anesthesia—you will be asleep
  • Local anesthesia—the area will be numbed

Description of the Procedure

A cut is made over the top of the toe. One of these common methods may be used:

  • Tendon transfer—The tendon is released. It may be attached to another part of the bone.
  • Joint arthroplasty—Part of the bones on both sides of the middle toe joint may be removed. This will allow the toe to uncurl.
  • Joint fusion—The ends of the toe bones are removed. The bones are repositioned. A pin may be used to hold them together during healing.

The incision will be closed with stitches. A bandage will be placed over it.

How Long Will It Take?

It depends on the method used and the number of toes corrected.

Will It Hurt?

Pain and swelling are common in the first month. Some swelling may last a year. Medicine and home care can help.

Post-procedure Care

At the Hospital

Right after the procedure, the staff may:

  • Give you pain medicine
  • Give you a special shoe to protect your foot
  • Teach you how to walk with crutches

During your stay, staff will take steps to lower your chance of infection, such as:

  • Washing their hands
  • Wearing gloves or masks
  • Keeping your incisions covered

You can also lower your chance of infection by:

  • Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and staff to do the same
  • Reminding staff to wear gloves or masks
  • Not letting others touch your incisions
At Home

It will take a few weeks for the toe to heal. Physical activity will be limited during recovery. You may need to ask for help with daily activities and delay your return to work for a few weeks.

Call Your Doctor

Call the doctor if you are not getting better or you have:

  • Signs of infection, such as fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, a lot of bleeding, or any leaking from the incision
  • Pain that you cannot control with medicine

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.

RESOURCES

The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine  http://www.sportsmed.org 

Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons  http://orthoinfo.aaos.org 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Podiatric Medical Association  http://www.podiatrycanada.org 

Health Canada  http://www.canada.ca 

References

DiPreta JA. Metatarsalgia, lesser toe deformities, and associated disorders of the forefoot. Med Clin North Am. 2014 Mar;98(2):233-251.

Hammer toe. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:  https://www.dynamed.com/condition/hammer-toe . Updated March 30, 2015. Accessed July 15, 2020.

Hammer toe. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00160. Updated September 2012. Accessed July 15, 2020.

What is hammertoe surgery? AOFAS—American Academy of Foot and Ankle Surgeons website. Available at: https://www.footcaremd.org/conditions-treatments/toes/hammertoe-surgery. Accessed July 15, 2020.

Revision Information