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What is a Cheilectomy?

By Nat Robinson
Updated Feb 06, 2024
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A cheilectomy is a surgical procedure used to remove bone spurs from the big toe. Bone spurs are the projections of tiny bones from within the joints. Pain in the joints and a limited range of motion are some of the most common symptoms of bone spurs. The joint of the big toe may become plagued by bone spurs and cause severe pain. If the pain is severe to the point where daily activities, such as walking, is inhibited, advanced medical interventions such as a cheilectomy may be necessary to remove the bone spurs and alleviate troubling symptoms.

Individuals with arthritis often develop bone spurs. Joints can become very damaged due to the arthritis, and bone spurs typically form as an attempt to increase the surface area of these damaged joints. The development of arthritis in the big toe is a condition known as hallux rigidus. This is one of the most common sites of arthritis in the foot.

Hallux rigidus can become problematic because of the limits it can place on the function of the big toe. The upward flexing motion of the toe as it pushes from the ground helps to make walking possible. In an individual with hallux rigidus, the big toe may become stiff, which may make walking difficult. Limited motion of the toe over time may lead to toe joint jamming, which can cause additional discomfort. Undergoing a cheilectomy can help to remove present bone spurs before the joints become too damaged and other complications arise.

The symptoms of hallux rigidus vary. Many people with bone spurs may be able to see the development of lumps as the spurs grow. Stiffness and pain, which may be sharp or an ongoing aching, may be also be present. Most commonly occurring at the base of the big toe, physical exertion such as running may worsen the pain. Redness, the formation of calluses, and swelling of the big toe may also be caused by this condition.

Prior to performing a cheilectomy, a doctor may try more conservative measures to treat this condition. Generally, altering the types of shoes worn will be the first line of treatment for this problem. Commonly, shoes with a rocker bottom may help individuals with hallux rigidus. Rocker soles are typically curved and will lessen stress on the feet. Stiff soled shoes may also be used because they are less flexible and will limit the motion of the big toe upon walking.

If these less invasive measures fail to lessen the symptoms of hallux rigidus, a medical procedure such as cheilectomy may be necessary. The removal of bone spurs through this procedure will usually result in a normal range of motion of the big toe. This will typically mean less painful walking as well. The recovery period following a cheilectomy is generally short, and physical therapy may be prescribed to strengthen the joint of the big toe, so that the patient can safely return to a normal activities.

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