If the foot deformity is only slight and not painful, it may not be advisable to operate but if the hammer toe is becoming progressively worse and causes pain, you would be advised to seek advice from your GP who can discuss surgical options. The earlier the operation is carried out, the better the results.
Numerous treatments are available – it depends on several factors, includingthe severity of your hammer toes. When the deformity is too severe,surgery is the only option.
A number of non-surgical measures can be taken to relieve pain in the foot: the removal of corns and calluses, protecting corns and calluses from rubbing against footwear using soft padding over the area, investing in shoes with a broad toe box and orthopaedic soles can also ease pain. These suggestions can help to relieve the discomfort caused by toe deformities but they will not resolve the mechanical problems of the foot which are the root cause of hammer toes.
When is surgery necessary ?
In certain cases, generally when the hammer toe has become rigid, surgery is necessary to alleviate all pain and discomfort caused by the deformity. Your orthopaedic surgeon will examine all options and will choose the most appropriate solution taking into consideration the type of shoes you wear, the number of deformed toes, your level of activity, your age and the severity of the hammer toes or claw toes.
Surgical solutions :
Arthrodesis is generally reserved for the more rigid toes and the more complex cases, for example when there are several joints or toes concerned. Arthrodesis is a technique that implies the welding of a small joint of the toe so as to straighten it. It necessitates the stabilisation of the joint using a pin, a screw or a small internal implant (such as the one developed by Memometal Technologies). This technique, which is very reliable, considerably diminishes pain and oedema, often associated with other techniques. Moreover, its functional results are excellent because it also protects the deformation from other joints of the foot.
Surgical treatment can involve more than a simple implantation; the rebalancing or lengthening of the tendon/muscle, small transfers of tendon or the rebalancing of surrounding joints may also be necessary.
Quite often, patients suffering from hammer toes also suffer from bunions on the big toes (hallux valgus) or other deformities. These are all corrected at the same time. Recovery time varies according to the number of hammer toes and other deformities.
Hammer toe surgery is generally carried out as an outpatient procedure (the hospital stay can be as short as a few hours).
The operation itself only takes a few minutes, unless you have several hammer toes or bunions to be treated.
Post-surgery view of a hammer toe treated with an intramedullary implant.
This website is not intented for the US.