A hammer toe is a condition in which there is a deformity of the second, third or the fourth toe. The condition is usually a result of wearing ill-fitted shoes for a long time. Normally the muscles present in the toes work in tandem to straighten and bend the toes. However, when shoes that narrow towards the toes are worn for a long time, the toes are kept in a bent position for a prolonged period. This results in the muscles remaining in a flexed position and they cannot relax subsequently. Therefore, the toes are bent at the middle joint, a position that resembles a hammer.
Hammer toes can be straightened initially but with time they become fixed in one position and can be corrected only surgically. Generally three types of surgeries are performed for hammer toe. They are:
- Removing a part of the toe bone.
- Cutting or transplanting the tendons to some other part of the bone.
- Fusing the joint permanently. This straightens the toe but you cannot bend it any longer.
Your doctor would decide which surgery is best suited for you after examining your toes to gauge the extent of deformity.
A hammertoe surgery is usually performed as an outpatient procedure under local anesthesia. After undergoing surgery, you are bound to have some swelling in the foot associated with pain. The degree of pain varies from patient to patient depending upon his threshold and can be easily taken care of with pain killers.
The patients are advised not to bear weight on the leg which has been operated upon for a day or two. Thereafter, they can walk with the help of crutches. But walking unaided, without the help of crutches, may take at least two weeks time.
The patient cannot wear shoes for around two weeks following a hammertoe surgery because of the swelling on the foot.
By the end of 8 weeks, the swelling has reduced considerably and 90% of the patients are able to wear their shoes. But in certain patients who have undergone arthrodesis, i.e., fusing of the joint, a wire or a pin is inserted for support. This pin is removed 3 to 6 weeks after the surgery. So, the swelling of the toe takes a longer time to subside and such patients have to wait longer before they can wear their shoes.
People, who have a sedentary job and can afford to keep their leg in an elevated position at the workplace, can return to their job within 2 to 3 days after the surgery. Others may take 6 to 8 weeks to get back to work depending upon the type of surgery, amount of swelling and extent of recovery.
A patient undergoing hammertoe surgery should also remember that he would not be able to drive for six to eight weeks following the surgery.
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