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Foot Surgery: Flexible and Rigid Hammertoes

With hammertoes, one or more toes curl or bend abnormally. This can be caused by an inherited muscle problem, an abnormal bone length, or poor foot mechanics. The affected joints can rub inside shoes, causing corns (buildups of dead skin).

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Flexible Hammertoes

When hammertoes are flexible, you can straighten the buckled joints. Flexible hammertoes may become rigid over time.

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Tendon Release

This treatment helps release the buckled joint. The bottom (flexor) tendon may be repositioned to the top of the affected toe (flexor tendon transfer). Sometimes, the top or bottom tendon is released but not repositioned (tenotomy). Right after surgery, you can bear weight on your foot.

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Rigid Hammertoes

Rigid hammertoes are fixed (not flexible). You cannot straighten the buckled joints. Corns, pain, and loss of function may be more severe with rigid hammertoes than with flexible ones.

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Arthroplasty

A part of the joint is removed, and the toe is straightened. In some cases, the entire joint may be replaced with an implant. You can bear weight on your foot right after surgery. When healed, the bones become connected with scar tissue, making your toe flexible.

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Fusion

First, the cartilage and some bone on both sides of the joint are removed. Then, the toe is straightened, and the two bones are held together, often with a pin. The pin is removed after several weeks. You can bear weight on your foot right away. Once your foot heals, the toe will be less flexible, but more stable.

Online Medical Reviewer: Dobbs, Bruce M, DPM
Online Medical Reviewer: Lehnert, Bruce, DPM
Date Last Reviewed: 6/15/2012
© 2000-2014 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.