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.