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What is cheilectomy?

Cheilectomy is a surgical procedure involving the removal of a bony lump which occurs above the main joint of the big toe. Big toe arthritis or hallux rigidus is normally the cause of this lump.

What does cheilectomy involve?

Cheilectomy will usually be done as a day case procedure under a general anaesthetic, with a post-operative local anaesthetic into the foot administered to minimise pain.

Attending a pre-assessment screening is good way of maximising the benefits of your surgery. At your screening, you’ll have your blood tested to assess your Vitamin D levels; swabs will be taken to check for infection or other issues; you’ll be weighed and have a chance to talk through your medical history, to highlight any potential anaesthetics issues.

It is highly recommended that you stop smoking at least eight weeks before surgery because smoking affects your ability to heal and leads to health issues, such as greater risk of pulmonary embolism (blood clots forming in the lungs) or deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in the calf).

Why might I need cheilectomy?

If you are suffering from pain and stiffness in your big toe joint, known as hallux rigidus or arthritis and/or a bony lump has formed on the top of the toe joint, limiting movement restriction and causing pain, you may need cheilectomy. Your consultant may first try non-surgical interventions before recommending cheilectomy.

How long does it take to recover?

After your operation, a physiotherapist will discuss your rehabilitation programme with you. They will also show you how to walk using a padded stiff shoe.

Once home from the hospital, you should try to rest as much as possible, with your leg raised above your heart. In the first two weeks after your operation, you can fully weight bear in the hospital-provided shoe, but it likely to be around six weeks before you can do this in your own shoes.

Depending on your job, you may be able to return to work two weeks after surgery, although if it involves heavy manual labour, you will need six weeks off.

What is the long-term impact of cheilectomy?

After around three months, you should be able to return to your normal activities and exercise, although some slight swelling may remain for up to twelve months.