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Small toes (surgery)

Surgery for problems with the small toesWhat problems can happen to the small toes?

The three main problems that can happen are deformity, pain in the toe joints and metatarsalgia (pain in the ball of your foot).

Toe deformities happen when the tendons that move the toes get too tight or out of balance. The affected toe can rub on other toes and on the inside of your shoe, causing pressure and pain (see figure 1).

Inflammatory arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis can damage the toe joints and this may make them come out of position.

What are the benefits of surgery?

Your toes should be straighter, so your foot should fit more comfortably in a shoe.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

Putting padding between your toes can help to stop pain caused by the toes rubbing.

Using soft shoes from a good-quality shoe shop may be enough. If not, the orthotics department at the hospital will be able to give you advice about insoles or special shoes.

What does the operation involve?

A variety of anaesthetic techniques is possible. The surgery may involve releasing or lengthening tendons, putting joints back into place, straightening a toe, and cutting and realigning the bones of your toes.

What complications can happen?

General complications

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infection of the surgical site (wound)
  • Unsightly scarring
  • Blood clots
  • Difficulty passing urine

Specific complications

  • Damage to nerves
  • Damage to blood vessels
  • Problems with bone healing
  • Loss of movement in the toes
  • Severe pain, stiffness and loss of use of the foot (complex regional pain syndrome)
  • Pain in the ball of the foot
  • The deformity coming back

How soon will I recover?

You should be able to go home the same day or the day after.

For the first week, you will need to spend most of the time with your leg raised so that the swelling settles.

It can take six weeks or longer before the swelling has gone down enough for you to wear a normal soft shoe.

Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, you should ask a member of the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

Summary

If you have problems with your small toes that are causing pressure and pain, surgery should straighten your toes and help make your foot fit more comfortably into a normal shoe.

Acknowledgements

Author: Mr Stephen Milner DM FRCS (Tr. & Orth.)

Illustrations: Medical Illustration Copyright © Medical-Artist.com

Copyright © 2017 EIDO Healthcare Limited - The operation and treatment information on this webpage is produced using information from EIDO Healthcare Ltd and is licensed by the Horder Centre.

The intellectual property rights to the information belong exclusively to EIDO Healthcare Limited. You may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information other than for your personal, non-commercial use. The information should not replace any advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

Issued June 2017 | Expires end of May 2018

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