What is Toe Arthrodesis?

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  • Written By: Dulce Corazon
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 29 September 2019
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Arthrodesis, also referred to as artificial ankylosis, is a surgical procedure done to fuse the joint between some bones, which often results in the elimination of movement of the said joint. The procedure is often done on patients with joint pains caused by arthritis and fractures. The most commonly affected joints are those in the spine, feet, and hands. If any joint in the toes is affected, a toe arthrodesis may be performed. Some deformities in the toes can also be corrected using the toe arthrodesis procedure.

Examples of deformities frequently seen in the toes are mallet toe, claw toe, and hammer toe. Mallet toe is often observed in the second toe. It causes the affected toe to bend downward, particularly at the joint that is close to the tip. Except for the big toe, claw toe usually affects majority of the toes together, making them curl downward. Hammer toe often affects the middle joint of the second toe making it bend downward as well.


The most common reason in performing a big toe arthrodesis is due to arthritis. It is generally the best management for arthritis that has caused severe damage to the big toe. Other conditions that can lead to a big toe arthrodesis are bunion formation and failure of a previous big toe operation. A bunion, medically referred to as hallux valgus, appears like a bump beside the joint of the big toe. When a previous big toe operation resulted in shortening of the toe, a big toe arthrodesis may also be done to correct this problem.

An orthopedic surgeon, a doctor who does surgery and treats patients with bone problems, is often the one performing toe arthrodesis. Patients undergoing toe arthrodesis are generally put under general anesthesia. The surgeon then makes an incision beside the affected joint and opens the area.

He may trim larger bumps or remove parts of the joint. Screws and other devices may also be utilized to keep the toe in a straight position. These devices are usually removed at a later date. The incision is then closed with stitches, and a dressing is applied.

Patients who undergo toe arthrodesis are often advised to rest their feet and to avoid putting weight on their toe during the first two weeks after surgery. Most patients will lose the ability to bend the affected toe and it may not also be able to touch the ground. This is, however,preferable to the constant pain they previously experienced.


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Post 5

I have just had this surgery on my little toes on each foot, with wire inserted to make the toes heal straight. The pain is very manageable, although it is difficult to remain immobile for a week or two and so extra pain occurs from trying to shuffle about. I'm on day six post-op but so far the pain is no worse than a bit of throbbing, and only paracetomol or equivalent is necessary.

Post 4

I just had both of my big toe joints fused eight days ago. I have nothing but praise for the procedure. I walked out of surgery and have had zero pain or swelling since. I am already back in my normal shoes, although I have to walk on the outside of my feet until the bones heal together. I had less pain the day after surgery then I did with the arthritis. Amazing.

Post 3

I had this done when I was 18 to all of my toes on my left foot, but my pinky toe. But the doctor used metal to fuse the bone together. I also had to get a pin in my big toe. I was wondering if anyone knows if this is reversible because since I've had it done to my foot, I can't keep sandals on my foot because I can't "grip it" and I can't bend´╗┐ my toes.

But the recovery process was fine. I had to be on crutches for about two weeks and couldn't really walk anywhere. It wasn't that painful either. But six years later post surgery, I still have a huge bruise on my upper side of my foot, and if someone steps on my toes or where my bruise it hurts a lot.

Post 2

I have talked to a friend about toe and foot surgery. She is a nurse who works for an orthopedist. He does foot surgery.

I asked her about foot joint pain because I am having some pain in other foot joints (not the toes). Anyway, she said that many of their patients who have had toe arthrodesis surgery experience quite a bit of pain. Some need to take prescription pain killers for a while.

After surgery pins are taken out, the pain gets better, but the swelling gets worse. It's advisable to stay off your feet for at least two weeks. And, of course, you won't be able to move one or more of your toes. But - that pain is gone!

Post 1

After reading this article, it sounds like people with arthrodesis of the foot or toes don't have too much choice for treatment after trying such things as orthodics without success.

With surgery comes fusing, possible cutting of parts of the joint and pins put in. My toes are getting more and more painful. I may need surgery soon.

I'm just wondering if anyone has had this surgery or knows someone who has. How was the recovery? How long did it take? Was it painful?

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