A hammertoe or a hammer toe is a type of deformity where the toe becomes bent upwards in the middle making it look like a hammer. This foot issue often occurs along with certain other toe problems. Some patients with a hammer toe also develop corns right on top of the middle joint of an affected toe. Hammer toe is often managed by effectively treating the symptoms associated with it. Some of the methods that can be used for handling hammer toe include wearing comfortable shoes or applying padding to the toe. However, if the pain or discomfort still persists, the patient may need to undergo a surgery.
A hammer toe can either be stiff or flexible. Depending on the rigidity or flexibility of the affected toe, a number of different surgical methods can be used for treating the hammer toe. All cases of hammer toe are first treated with non-surgical methods. If, however, they are not able to produce desired results, the doctors may recommend a surgical procedure according to the specific nature of the case.
Below are the three main methods used for hammer toe surgery:
For patients who have a flexible hammer toe, the orthopedic surgeon will first try to straighten the toe and resolve the issue. To do this, a procedure called tendon transfer can be carried out, which can help to correct the issue. It involves effectively rerouting the tendons by taking them from bottom of the affected toe to top of toe at the point where it has been sticking up. Such a procedure can help to pull the bent toe joint into straight position.
In case the hammer toe has become stiff or fixed, the doctors can try out two different forms of treatment. A procedure called joint resection is often carried out for treating the fixed hammertoe. To carry out this procedure, the surgeon makes an incision right over top of the affected toe. The tendons and ligaments can be cut to aid the straightening of the toe. The end of the affected bone is removed to allow the toe to be straightened completely. Pins are used temporarily for holding the toe straight. These pins are generally moved after a few weeks once the surgery is completed.
An alternate way of treating a fixed hammer toe is fusion. In this surgical procedure, the tendons and ligaments are cut in size to help in straightening the toe. The ends of the affected bone are also cut to straighten the toe. Screws, pins and other implants are used for keeping the toe straight for some time after the surgery while the tissue and the bone ends gradually heal together.
Once the surgery is properly carried out, the surgeon may recommend that the patient wear special shoes for a few weeks so that the area heals properly. It may take a few weeks for the patient to be back on his or her feet, depending on the kind of surgery that was carried out.