hammer, claw, or mallet toe gets worse or if
nonsurgical treatment fails to reduce pain or discomfort, surgery may be an
option. Generally, surgery is used only for severe toe deformities. Surgery may
not completely return your toes to their normal positions, and toe joint
problems may return after the surgery.
Surgical options may
include one or a combination of the following:
- Phalangeal head resection (arthroplasty), in which the surgeon removes part of the toe
- Joint fusion (arthrodesis), in which the surgeon
removes part of the joint, letting the toe bones grow together
- Cutting supporting tissues
tendons in the toe joint. This can relax the tension
on the joint and allow the toe to straighten out.
- In rare cases, removing the toe (amputation) may be a good option.
Doctors often use surgery on the bones for fixed toe
problems, and they move tendons for flexible toe problems.
- Hammer, Claw, or Mallet Toe: Should I Have Surgery?
What to think about
Doctors generally advise
everyone, especially athletes, children, and people who have health problems such
diabetes, to take a conservative, careful approach
If you have surgery for a toe problem, your
surgeon may also operate on other toe joints to improve your symptoms.
Whether you have surgery generally depends on:
- The type and degree of your deformity. Claw toe may be more
likely to cause pain and limit activities, and your doctor may suggest surgery.
Hammer toe or mallet toe may respond better to nonsurgical treatment. Surgery
is only used when pain and discomfort disrupt your daily life or other
treatments have not worked.
- Whether the toe problem is
fixed or flexible. With a flexible deformity, you have more options for
treatment. For a severe fixed deformity, surgery may be the only solution when
nonsurgical methods fail to control pain.
- Whether you have more
than one toe problem. For example, if a
bunion is pushing the second toe into a hammer toe
position, surgery to correct the bunion can make room for the second toe. At
the same time, surgery can correct the hammer toe.
A person typically has foot surgery as an
outpatient, so you probably will not have to spend a
night away from home. But other factors, such as your overall health, may make
a hospital stay necessary.
Recovery from surgery often takes 4 to
8 weeks, although it may take longer. How long it takes depends on the
procedure you have done and how many problems your surgeon repairs. You may need
follow-up X-rays. You may be able to walk on the affected foot right after
surgery, possibly with a special shoe. How soon you can start wearing your own
shoes depends on how quickly you recover.