In the world of podiatry over the past few years, many medical companies have jumped on board the hammertoe train. Hammertoes plague many people and while some may prefer to get shoes that accommodate these toes while retaining some of the added dexterity they enjoy (my husband in particular), others still get fed up enough that they start thinking about surgery to correct these toes. Just like so many other foot conditions, there are hammertoes of varying degree and the root cause of the condition is usually muscle imbalances. The cause of the condition has always been the same, but the surgical technique is evolving.
In many instances, correcting a hammertoe involves fusing one or both small joints within the toe. Because toes are so much smaller than other parts of the body, keeping them held in a correct position during healing involves some pretty small hardware. Traditionally, "pins" are used to rigidly splint the toe after surgery and are removed once a certain degree of healing is present. If you have ever known someone who had hammertoe surgery, you may be imagining the seemingly barbaric way that pin (while placed in the bones of the toe) stuck out the end of the toe.
Times are a-changing though. Medical companies have responded to the demands of our patients by creating new devices that hold the position of the toe without having to see part of it on the outside of your body! Don't get me wrong, there are still plenty of instances now where a good old fashioned pin (we call it a k-wire) is the best tool to achieve the goal of straightening a toe. In some circumstances, however, there is now an option of using absorbable pins or internal implants. Depending on the product, the body's reaction to placement of these devices varies. Some of these devices can decrease the amount of reactivity and therefore swelling within the toe post-operatively.
Another new consideration that is regaining some popularity in hammertoe surgery is tendon transfers. Some schools of thought believe that if the hammertoe is a reflection of muscle imbalances, why should the joint be addressed or fused? In a situation where a hammertoe is still flexible (meaning that the joint surfaces have not adapted due to the deformity), this can be a viable option as well.
If you are wondering just how bad a case of hammertoes you have - or if you have questions about how to treat them, call and make an appointment with one of our doctors at Prarie Path Foot and Ankle Clinic. We can take the time to educate you on your condition and make a treatment plan that is tailored to you!