Toe fusion surgery is a surgical procedure performed to correct problems with the bones in the metatarsals (toes) of the feet. There are a number of conditions which can affect the toes and make toe fusion a necessity. Arthritis, fractures and hammer toe are the most common conditions of the toes which can require fusion surgery for correction.
The joint which joins the forefoot and the big toe bones, referred to as the MTP joint, is prone to developing degenerative arthritis. The arthritis wears away the cartilage from around the joint, causing painful friction when the bones move in and out of the MTP joint. Fractures of the toe bones can occur usually due to injury such as dropping a heavy object on your toes.
Hammer toe is a condition in which the toe buckles and bends at an odd angle, causing the middle joint of the toe to poke out. The misshaped toe resembles a hammer. This deformity affects the second, third and fourth toes of the foot. In the early stages of hammer toe, the toes are still flexible and can be treated easily, but as hammer toe progresses the toes become rigid and require surgery.
What to Expect During Toe Fusion Surgery
The toe fusion surgery process can differ, depending on the toes involved and the condition affecting them:
Fractured toe fusion – This usually involves creating an incision over the area of the fracture and realigning the affected bone. After the bone is set, the surgeon inserts instrumentation such as a metal plate and screws over the bone to help keep it immobile during its healing time. The metal plate and screws are removed during follow-up surgery at a later time when the bone is completely healed back together.
Arthritic toe fusion – The surgeon makes an incision along the side of the big toe then removes the worn cartilage surfaces from the joint. The bones which make up the joint are aligned then fixed together using screws. The joint will fuse together into one single, painless structure.
Hammer toe fusion – This surgical procedure is reserved for cases in which the hammer toe has progressed severely and caused the affected toe to become very stiff and rigid. The surgeon will fuse the small joint in the toe in order to straighten it back to its normal position. A small pin is typically used to hold the joint in place as the toe heals. The result of this surgery is that the hammer toe is corrected but you will be unable to bend your toe again.
The multidisciplinary team of orthopaedic experts at North Shore-LIJ Orthopaedic Institute's Foot & Ankle Services in New York performs toe fusion surgery as well as a broad range of nonsurgical and surgical treatments for conditions that affect the foot and ankle.
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