Although hammertoe can be treated using a number of methods, for most people hammertoe surgery is ultimately the necessary treatment. This unique bone deformity is usually the result of wearing shoes that have extremely tall heels or those with pointed, narrow toe space. With this, the four small toes are forced into a tight space, which in turn causes the tendon to tighten. When this happens, the toes bend at the joint to the point of looking like a hammerhead.
While someone with hammertoe may experience only slight discomfort initially, over time, the condition worsens to the point of becoming quite painful. In fact, for some people, hammertoe makes it nearly impossible to wear shoes of any type and can be debilitating to walking. Of course, no person wants to go through surgery but for this deformity, hammertoe surgery is often the only viable resolution.
Overview of Hammertoe Surgery
Before addressing benefits and drawbacks to hammertoe surgery, we wanted to offer a brief overview of what this type of surgery involves. There are actually three primary surgical options for correcting hammertoe, which are described below:
- Arthroplasty – This type of surgery involves the transfer of a tendon. By rerouting the tendon from beneath the toe to the top, the misalignment can be corrected.
- Digital Arthrodesis – With this surgery, joints are fused as a means of straightening the hooked toes. To accomplish this, a wire is inserted into each affected toe that would extend beyond the tip. For someone who still has mobility, this is often the preferred option.
- Tendon Transfer – The third type of hammertoe surgery is used for someone with extremely rigid toes. Depending on the severity of the case, a tendon transfer may be used in connection with one or both of the other types of hammertoe surgery.
Benefits of Surgery
Regarding positive aspects of hammertoe surgery, there are three in particular that typically tip the scale to a person agreeing to this particular treatment. Of course, every person would reap unique benefits but these three seem to affect everyone who undergoes this surgical procedure.
- Permanency – One of the most critical benefits of having hammertoe surgery performed is that correction of the deformed toes is permanent. Although there are a number of less invasive treatments for this condition, most only offer temporary or partial relief whereas with hammertoe surgery, the condition is fixed for good.
- Aesthetics – Although usually painful, one of the complaints heard most about this condition is how unsightly a person’s foot appears. In mild cases, hammertoe is not horrific but in severe situations, a person’s entire foot would look deformed. While devastating, the good news is that hammertoe surgery completely transforms aesthetics even though small scars may or may not be visible.
- Pain Free – For most people living with hammertoe, pain is one of the common symptoms, especially in trying to wear shoes. However, with hammertoe surgery, protruding joints pushing upwards into shoes are positioned normally, which in turn eliminates pain.
Risk of Hammertoe Surgery
While the three main benefits of hammertoe surgery typically override any negative aspects, there are a few things a person should consider prior to having surgery performed. As with benefits, there would be downsides of the surgery for each person but overall, those provided below are shared among everyone.
- Pain and Inflammation – While some degree of pain and inflammation is expected after going through hammertoe surgery, there are times when these side effects of the procedure last longer or are more intense than anticipated. However, both pain and inflammation would eventually cease but during this time, walking or even standing can be quite difficult.
- Returning Problem – Although hammertoe surgery is considered a permanent solution and while most people never have another problem with this particular deformity, unfortunately, there are reported cases of hammertoe returning. Usually, any returning problem would be slow coming, which would require immediate attention. Keep in mind, while possible, this is considered rare.
- Aesthetics Outcome – When hammertoe surgery is performed by a skilled surgeon, the results typically exceed the person’s expectations but there are times when another condition develops called floating toe, in which the toe or toes operated on become overly stiff and immobile or floppy where there is virtually no control.