Big toe knuckle joint surgery

Stress and injuries to the knuckle joints of the foot can cause breakdown (osteoarthritis) of the ankle and foot joints. The big toe becomes sore and cannot be moved normally.

Osteoarthritis of the big toe knuckle joint is not the same thing as a bunion. Osteoarthritis is caused by wearing of the joint. A bunion (hallux abducto valgus), on the other hand, is a bone deformity and a functional disorder of the foot. Big toe osteoarthritis can be diagnosed with an X-ray.

Most cases of big toe osteoarthritis are primary osteoarthritis with no particular cause. Ageing is a common underlying cause, but heavy physical exertion or strain can also be contributing factors. Some cases of osteoarthritis are caused by injuries or rheumatic or infectious diseases. Being overweight, sports activities that put stress on the joints, and injuries or infections of the joints all increase the risk of osteoarthritis.

In most cases, osteoarthritis can be treated conservatively, i.e. without surgery. Surgery may be needed in cases of prolonged joint infections, big toe knuckle joint pain or joint deformities.

During a cheilectomy, the mobility of the big toe knuckle joint is improved and bone spurs are removed, but this does not cure the osteoarthritis. The most efficient cure for osteoarthritis is a fusion (arthrodesis) of the big toe joint.

The patient can walk and run normally after the fusion procedure, but may experience problems in certain sports (such as cross-country skiing) as the joint no longer bends. 

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