Failed Hammertoe Surgery
“We’ll just make a little cut here, trim some bone away and make the toe straight”
Hammertoe surgery, also called an “arthroplasty,” is more than just trimming some bone away.
A Hammertoe is a toe which is curved at one or more of its joints. This generally due to an imbalance of the tendons. Over time the joint deteriorates, gets thick and stops functioning and the toe is left bent at that joint.
What do you need to know?
- If you have hammertoes and have NO symptoms at all you do not need surgery.
- If you have NO symptoms but are being told you will have future problems, remember that you may never have symptoms so why go through surgery?
- You should never be talked into having this surgery and should always get another opinion if that is what you are being told by the podiatrist.
- If you have hammertoes and HAVE symptoms such as pain in shoes or under the toes (at the metatarsal-phalangeal joint), then you might consider surgery BUT only if your podiatrist takes you through non-surgical ways to deal with the pain including properly fitting shoes.
Some hammertoes cause pain, typically from corns on top of the bent joint and rubbing inside the shoe. Surgery can usually correct this. Some patients only need a tendon cut.
Some patients usually need the joint removed or re-shaped. These surgeries – arthroplasties – are not complicated and should result in a straighter toe with no more pain. However, if performed improperly, the toe can become twisted and distorted or the toe may not touch the ground anymore.
Arthroplasties are not necessarily minor surgery. The small bones in the toe are cut. The joint, all of it or part of it is cut out. A pin is usually put straight through the toe hold the 3 toe bones in place while you heal. There is very low risk of infection with pins and it is usually a good idea to use them. The patient must be told a pin will be used and that they should expect to see their wrapped foot with a pin coming out of the end of the toe. The patient should never come out of the surgery and be surprised by a pin coming out the end of their toe. If you were surprised, then your podiatrist did not fully inform you of the surgery and you did not give an “informed consent“.
Malpractice in hammertoe surgery typically involves mistakes in diagnosis as to the cause of the hammertoes or in the type of surgery selected or in sloppy surgery and can involve:
- twisted, distorted, shortened toes
- toes which are stiff or don’t move
- toes which no longer function
- toes which do not touch the ground
- toes which are cocked up, hovering over the other toes