A hammer toe can be defined as a type of foot deformity that affects the 2nd, 3rd or 4th toes. It is characterized by the bending of the toe around the middle joint which makes the toe resemble a hammer. During the initial stages, hammer toes are quite flexible and respond positively to simple treatment methods. However, if left untreated the hammer toes can become quite fixed thus needing surgery.
Any doctor looking to treat a case of hammer toe will first make use of a number of non-surgical methods to cure the condition. These can include anti-inflammatory medicines, cortisone injections, custom foot orthotics, physical therapy and toe pads or splints. If these methods fail to produce the desired results, then surgical, methods are used to correct the hammer toe deformity.
Hammer toe surgery procedures:
Hammer toe surgery is mainly carried out by removing certain portions of the bone within a toe for reducing joint contracture. Soft tissue procedures can become necessary depending on the particular direction in which a toe gets deviated. A surgical wire can be used for pinning the toe. Mainly two methods of surgery are used for correcting hammer toes, namely joint resection (arthroplasty) and bone mending (fusion). The point on the toe in which this surgery is performed depends on the part where it is buckled. If the joint of ball area of the foot is malaligned, i.e. dislocated or subluxed, a toe relocation procedure will become necessary.
Joint resection or arthroplasty procedure:
This procedure is carried out by removing a portion of 1 of the 2 small joints of a toe that is directly underneath the point where it is crooked. The aim of this method is to make space for the toe so that it can be re-positioned straight or flat. Since hammer toes become fixed or rigid with time, surgically removing this joint becomes the one and only option in case the knuckle becomes stiff. The medical terminology for joint resection procedure is distal interphalangeal joint arthroplasty or proximal interphalangeal joint arthroplasty. The former method involves the joint that is closer to tip of the affected toe.
Bone mending or fusion procedure:
The purpose of the bone mending procedure is to realign the affected toe by surgically removing all its small joints that have deviated from their original positions. It allows surgeons to take the buckled joint and position it flat so that the bone ends mend together. Surgical hardware or fixation can be deemed necessary in many occasions for keeping the bones perfectly steady during healing. The hardware options can include a buried implant within the affected toe or a wire that is temporary placed and removed later. The medical terminology for bone mending or fusion procedure is distal interphalangeal joint arthrodesis (fusion) or proximal interphalangeal joint arthrodesis (fusion). This latter procedure is carried out in the majority of the cases.
A toe relocation procedure can be carried out with any of the processes discussed above and can involve the temporary use of a surgical rod.