Hammertoes and Mallet Toes

Description

Another common digital deformity is contracture of the toes in the formation of hammertoes and mallet toes. Hammertoes are described in depth in another article. Mallet toes are a result of contracture of the last joint in the toe. In the pediatric population it is often flexible and not painful. Over time the deformity becomes rigid and a callus may form on the skin overlying the joint at the end of the toe. Additionally the toenail may become thickened and deformed form the repetitive jamming of the toe while walking. The deformity usually involves one or two toes, with the second toe most commonly affected. Mallet toes have several etiologies. Longer toes that are forced against a short toe box in the shoe will, over time, develop a contracture of the last joint in the toe causing a mallet toe.

Treatment

Conservative treatment consists of padding and strapping the toes into a corrected position. This treatment may alleviate the symptoms but will not correct the deformity. Diabetic patients often develop ulcerations on the ends of their toes secondary to mallet toe deformity and the pressure that results from the toe jamming into the shoe. When standing, the toe will demonstrate a contracture, with the tip of the toe facing downward into the floor. If the deformity is flexible a simple release of the tendon in the bottom of the toe will allow straightening of the toe. Following the procedure the patient must avoid shoes that cause jamming of the toe or the deformity can reoccur. When the deformity is rigid surgical correction requires the removal of a small section of bone in the last joint of the toe. On occasion fusion of the last two bones in the toe may be necessary. This requires removing the cartilage from the last joint in the toe and pinning the bones together. When the bone heals it forms a single bone and the toe remains in a straightened position. Healing time is dependent upon the procedure selected. If a tendon release is performed the patient my return to a roomy shoe within a week. If the toe is straightened by removing a section of the bone in the toe it make ten days to three weeks for a patient to return to normal shoes. If a fusion is performed to straighten the toe, the patient may not return to normal shoes for 6 to 8 weeks. Time off from work will depend upon the type of shoe gear that must be worn and the level of activity necessary to perform the job. A minimum of three to four days off from work is generally recommended and longer if the job responsibilities can not be modified to accommodate the normal healing time for the surgery.