Toe fusion

What is a toe fusion?

In order to straighten the toe or toes, the knuckle at the top of the toe is usually cut, and the toe straightened. In order to hold the toe straight following the surgery, a small pin (we call this a K-wire) is commonly inserted into the toe for about four weeks. Invariably the middle part of the toe is stiff following the surgery, but will bend where the toe joins the foot. There are different types of surgery to the toe but a toe fusion is called an arthrodesis.

Type of procedure

This is a day case procedure and same day discharge is usual.

Type of anaesthesia

The operation will be undertaken under a local anaesthetic. This involves an injection around the big toe (also called a ‘ring block’. The effect of this block will last for a few hours after surgery.

How long will the surgery take?

The surgery normally takes 20 to 30 minutes depending on the number of toes that need to be corrected.

Risks of surgery:

Any orthopaedic surgery carries some inherent risks and it is the surgeons responsibility to fully inform you regarding the benefits and risks of this procedure. Mr Shariff will go through this in detail with you to help you make an informed decision.

This is a fairly routine procedure with risk of:

Infection

If this occurs it is usually a superficial infection around the wound site. It settles with a course of oral antibiotics. Deep infection is extremely rare. Overall risk is 1%.

Pins & needles or patch of numbness:

Small nerve branches which supply sensation to the skin may be bruised or cut when the skin incision is made. This may cause pins and needles or a patch of numbness around the scar. This feeling generally resolves within a few weeks to a couple of months. Overall risk is 5%.

Nonunion

The fusion is generally successful. In some cases the joint may not fuse but remains painless in which case no intervention will be required.Overall risk is 20 - 30%.

Recovery from surgery

What can I expect immediately after the surgery whilst in hospital?

When you wake up, it is normal to have numbness in the operated foot as the anaesthetic block will take a few hours to wear off. You will have a bulky dressing to your foot and pins sticking out of the toe. You will notice a pin sticking out of the tip of the operated toe. A stiff sole shoe will be provided in which you can walk after surgery. The physiotherapists will make sure that you are safe on your feet before discharge. You will also be given painkillers to take home. It is normal to experience moderate pain after surgery and you can keep this to a minimum by taking regular painkillers.

Specific recovery protocol:

Day 1 - 7

  • Ensure that you keep your foot elevated on pillows to help reduce swelling
  • Foot wrapped in bulky bandage and surgical stiff sole shoe
  • Protect pins from impact
  • Allowed to heel walk in a stiff sole shoe
  • Ice, elevate, take pain medication
  • Expect numbness in foot 12-24 hours then moderate pain
  • Bloody drainage through bandage expected.
  • Do not change bandage
  • Do not remove surgical shoe even at night

 

Day 14

  • You will have a follow up visit in clinic
  • You will have an Xray on arrival prior to seeing Mr Shariff.
  • Your wound will be inspected. You will have absorbable sutures so they will not need to be removed

 

6 weeks

  • Pins removed in clinic. Does not cause any pain only minimal discomfort
  • A regular shoe may then be worn and allowed to fully weight bear
  • Some form of strapping may be used for a further couple of months
  • Massage of the toes is important for a month.

 

12 weeks

  • You can expect swelling to last for about 4 months, but you will notice that it gradually starts to settle.
  • You will have started to wear normal foot wear by this time.

 

Post operative clinic visit schedule

2 weeks after surgery - wound check and advice regarding basic hygiene
6 weeks after surgery - X-rays and advice regarding exercise
3 months after surgery - final follow up clinical exam and discharge


When can I begin to walk?

You are allowed to walk in a stiff sole surgical shoe on the day of surgery. However you must ensure that you use this shoe at all times for the first 6 weeks after your operation as this provides the necessary support while your bone heals.

0 - 6 weeks - stiff sole surgical shoe
6 - 12 weeks - shoe with a robust sole

 

How do I look after my surgical wound site?

Your wound should be healed 2 weeks after surgery. If you notice any redness around the wound site, get in touch with your consultant as you may have a wound infection. Do not pick on any scabs and allow them to fall off. You will be taught some massage techniques to lighten your scar.

 

How do I shower or wash?

Do not get your wound wet until it heals completely. You can use a waterproof cover or plastic bag over your foot when you have a shower. Only expose your wound to water after it has healed completely.


When can I get back to driving?

It is the responsibility of the driver to ensure that he/she is in control of the vehicle at all times. As a general rule, you are ready to drive when you are able to perform an emergency braking manoeuver without pain. This usually is 4 to 6 weeks after surgery.

Click here to read the guidance from the DVLA on driving after surgery.

 

When can I get back to work?

Returning to work is very much dependent on the specific type of job and individual. As a rule of thumb -

  • Office based sedentary work - 4 weeks
  • Manual labour  - 12 weeks

 

 

When can I get back to sport?

It depends on the kind of exercise, but as a general rule of thumb you can get back to sports like golf 3 to 4 months after surgery. For high intensity sport, this may take 6 months.

 
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