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What is hammertoe surgery?

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Hammertoe surgery is performed to correct the alignment of toes stuck in a flexed position when the condition causes ongoing complications and doesn't improve with nonsurgical techniques, Medline Plus states. Depending on the condition's severity, surgical repairs may require fusing joints, removing sections of bone or rerouting the tendons.

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In a hammertoe, a shortened or deformed tendon pulls the joints out of alignment, permanently or temporarily locking the toe in a position that resembles a hammer head, according to Mount Sinai Hospital. Physicians typically recommend surgery when a prolonged hammertoe causes daily pain, hinders walking or leads to deterioration of the surrounding skin.

The surgical method depends on the source of the deformity and the rigidity of the hammertoe, the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society notes. A flexible hammertoe may respond to tendon transfer surgery, which requires changing the path of the tendon and attaching it to a different section of bone to help the toe straighten. When a hammertoe loses all flexibility, a surgeon may trim the ends of the affected bones, reset them and use pins to hold the straightened toe in place until the bones fuse together again. A joint resection is another option for treating a fixed hammertoe. In this procedure, the surgeon removes enough of the bone end and connected ligaments or tendons to relax the toe into a completely extended position. The joint is then secured with pins.

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