Big toe joint fusion surgery

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What is big toe joint fusion surgery?

Usually a day case procedure, this type of surgery treats big toe arthritis, and is performed under a general anaesthetic, with a pain-relieving local anaesthetic administered post-operatively around the wound.

What does big toe joint fusion surgery involve?

The procedure requires a minor incision to be made on top of the big toe and the removal of damaged bone prior to the fusion of the joint with a tiny plate and screw.

Why might I need big toe joint fusion surgery?

You may need big toe joint fusion surgery if you are suffering from big toe arthritis with symptoms of stiffness, swelling and inflammation.

How long does it take to recover?

Whilst still in hospital, you’ll be shown how to walk using crutches and a surgical sandal. This sandal will help you to walk while avoiding bearing weight on the areas operated on. In most cases, you will be able to leave hospital on the same day as your surgery, but some patients spend a night in hospital.

Your foot may have some mild bruising, and when it is put down will feel sore and swell. To avoid this, try to rest as much as possible, with your leg raised above your heart. You should, however, try to wriggle your toes during these first two weeks – this exercise will aid your recovery without causing damage.

If you are able to work from home, you may be able to return to work just over a week after your operation. However, if your job involves heavy manual labour, you should not return to work for up to three months, depending on your recovery.

Around two weeks after your operation, your bulky dressings and stitches will be removed and you’ll be given a toe alignment splint to wear, as well as exercises to help with your recovery.

If surgery was on your left foot, you can usually start driving if you drive an automatic car at this point, if advised by your consultant. However, you should also check with your car insurance provider.

After three weeks, can also put weight on your foot in a normal shoe, but you must be aware that your foot is likely to still be swollen. Once it has completely dried up and healed, you can go swimming and apply moisturiser to the wound itself to reduce scarring.

You can return to low impact sports after around six weeks, and by this point will be able to move your foot normally. You should also be able to start driving a manual car, if advised by your consultant, but also check with your car insurance company.

It is important, however, not to overdo it, so try to avoid walking long distances. Higher impact sports can be done around ten to twelve weeks after your operation.

For more details about recovering from big toe joint fusion surgery, read our downloadable patient information leaflet.

What is the long-term impact of big toe joint fusion surgery?

Six months after surgery patients are usually able to return to their normal activity levels, including participating in high impact sports. Some swelling may remain at this point, but a year after your operation healing should be complete and any remaining swelling will have disappeared. Patients should be able to return to their normal lifestyle.