How common are complications of hammertoe surgery?
While hammertoe surgery is ordinarily not regarded as one of the more complex foot surgeries, this digital arthroplasty procedure is often not as simple as it first appears, either for the patient or the doctor. Though it is typically the first operation surgical residents perform during training, a number of patients (not to mention doctors) experience disappointment or regret postsurgically.
Even in situations in which contractures of the toe or toes are semi-rigid and painful at the joints, a typical presentation, it’s possible that even after the arthroplasty, stiffness and swelling will persist for quite some time. This can happen even though the toes have been correctly straightened and are now on the same plane, and the K-wires have been properly removed about 2 ½ weeks after surgery.
Although patients and doctors may be, at first, delighted at the results in terms of appearance and apparent healing, when the toes remain stiff and swollen after a month, patients may start to be alarmed and doctors may begin to experience anxiety. In cases of prolonged stiffness and swelling, in addition to elevation of the affected foot and application of ice during periods of rest, range of motion (ROM) exercises are usually recommended.
There have been cases in which 2 months after surgery, although the recommended treatment has reduced swelling a bit, the dense fibrous tissue has given a fusiform (tapered at both ends) appearance to the toes. This is clear evidence that the ROM exercises have not accomplished the expected results.
At this point, it is common for the patient to be unhappy with his or her postsurgical appearance, even if he or she is not experiencing any pain. A possible remedy is that the surgeon may block the toes and manipulate them in order to break adhesions (bands of scar tissue) and reduce the thickened scarring of connective tissue to a more tolerable level, but this is not always successful.
What makes such complications occur is unknown and therefore the risk to the patient is unpredictable. Though some surgeons have speculated that the rate of complications is influenced by the use of various devices, such as K-wires or joint spacers, this has not proved to be the case. Patients may wonder what percentage of patients experience longer than usual recoveries or suffer the complications discussed. It is only fair that patients be informed of the risks they are taking in having “simple” foot surgery.
If you have had hammertoe or other foot surgery and are still experiencing pain, immobility, or deformity months afterwards, you should contact an attorney knowledgeable about podiatric malpractice who will be able to assess whether you have a viable case. If you do, you can be assured of receiving the help you need to receive compensation to cover your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
If these problems are inherent to the procedure, why didn’t I previously hear of other surgeons having these problems? When I recently asked my colleagues about this, several of them told me they do have