When you reach the point that your hammertoe is aching, rubbing on your shoe, and causing you embarrassment, then it is time to schedule surgery. Hammertoe surgeries are rather routine for most podiatric surgeons, so you can pretty much count on getting good results. However, the process of going through hammertoe surgery does not always go as smoothly as the surgical procedure itself. To ensure you're able to plan appropriately, there are a couple of key questions to ask your surgeon when scheduling your procedure.
Will you have external rods and screws that need to be removed?
Years ago, whenever hammertoe surgery was performed, the surgeon would use some rods and screws to hold the joint in place as the patient recovered. These screws and rods would protrude from the skin, and they'd be removed a few weeks later. Today, though, some hammertoe surgeries can be completed with these protruding screws and rods. Smaller, internal screws can be used. They just remain in the joint forever. Some cases of hammertoe, though, do still need to be corrected through the more traditional procedure with external hardware. Since it can be alarming to wake up with screws protruding from your toe if you were not expecting it, make sure you ask your surgeon what to expect in this regard prior to your surgery.
Will your tendon be severed?
Hammertoe is caused by a shortening of a certain tendon that runs the length of the toe. In some cases, your podiatrist may fear that, after surgery, the tendon will shorten again and bring the hammertoe back. If they think this may be a concern, they may sever the tendon during your surgery. This will reduce the amount of control you have over your toe, but it will keep your hammertoe from coming back. Your surgeon may not know whether this is needed until they surgically open up your toe, but it's worth asking what they expect will happen.
When will you be able to go back to work?
Most surgeons will give you a general timeline of how long the average person needs to take off from work after hammertoe surgery. However, if you tell your doctor a little more about your job, they can give you a more precise answer. For instance, if you tell your doctor that you sit at a desk all day for work, they may tell you that you can go back to work a week after surgery. On the other hand, if you're a mail courier and walk all day, they may tell you that you need 8 weeks off.
Ask the right questions, and you'll get the right answers! These questions will be good conversation starters, enabling your surgeon to share more about hammertoe surgery with you.
To learn more about hammertoe surgery, contact a local podiatric surgeon.