Surgery for Hammertoe

In some people with hammertoe, the muscles and tendons in the affected toe can no longer straighten. If this occurs, or if hammertoe causes chronic pain and interferes with your ability to walk and participate in everyday activities, your doctor may recommend corrective surgery.

Our orthopaedic surgeons offer outpatient procedures to realign the bones of the joint and straighten the toe. For many people, surgery relieves pain and restores quality of life.

Corrective Surgery

Corrective surgery is an outpatient procedure at NYU Langone, and you can expect to return home the same day the procedure is done. Doctors may recommend local anesthesia with sedation or general anesthesia. You and your surgeon make this decision together before surgery.

To perform the procedure, the surgeon makes an incision in the affected toe to access the muscles and joint. He or she may use one or more techniques to correct the position of the toe. The most common technique is a surgical release, or lengthening, of the tendons or ligaments that are causing the toe muscles to stay contracted, resulting in the hammertoe. This procedure allows the toe to straighten.

A surgeon may also remove a small part of a bone in the joint to ensure the toe can extend fully. This may be necessary if the hammertoe has prevented the toe from straightening for a long period of time, causing changes in the shape and size of the joint. The surgeon reshapes the bones of the toe so it can extend and uses metal pins to fix the bones in place while the toe heals. The incision is closed with stitches.

If a neuroma, or nerve irritation, is the cause of significant pain in the foot, a surgeon may remove the affected section of the nerve in addition to correcting the alignment of the toe. In this simple procedure, a surgeon accesses the inflamed nerve through an incision on the top of the foot. After the damaged part of the nerve is removed, the incision is closed with stitches.

What to Expect After Surgery

After surgery, doctors provide you with a hard-soled shoe to protect your toe while it heals. The length of time it takes for the toe to fully recover varies, depending on the type of surgery performed. Most people wear the shoe and use crutches for four weeks.

Doctors schedule follow-up appointments for two and four weeks after surgery and remove any surgical pins from your toe during the last visit. This is a quick procedure that is performed in a doctor’s office.

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