Surgical Procedure for Hallux Rigidus

toe surgery
Surgery to remove bone spurs from the big toe. bojan fatur / Getty Images

A cheilectomy is a surgical procedure performed to remove bone spurs from the base of the big toe in the foot. Patients with a condition called hallux rigidis, or arthritis of the big toe, have pain and stiffness in the big toe.

The word cheilectomy comes from the Greek word Cheilos, meaning "lip." A cheilectomy removes the bone spurs, or lip of bone, that forms as a result of arthritis of the joint.

By removing the bone spurs, patients have less stiffness of the big toe.

Hallux Rigidus

People with arthritis at the base of the big toe have hallux rigidus.  When the joint wears away at the base of the toe, movements of the foot become painful.  The most common location of pain in people who have hallux rigidus is directly on top of the big toe.  This pain is called dorsal impingement.

Dorsal impingement occurs when the toe is bend upwards, and bone spurs on the ends of the bone pinch on top of the big toe.  Unlike pain associated with bunions, the pain of dorsal impingement is not relieved by removing shoes.  Sometimes, pain can be alleviated by wearing a more rigid shoe or custom insoles that better support the joint and prevent it from bending upwards as much.

Treatment of Toe Arthritis

The typical course of treatment is to start with simple steps such as changes in footwear and anti-inflammatory medications.

  If the symptoms of pain persist, often your doctor will recommend a cortisone injection to help relieve symptoms.  If the cortisone shot is not helpful, a surgical treatment may be recommended.

A chilectomy is often, but not always helpful.  The advantage is that the recovery from a chilectomy is relatively short, with few restrictions on patients following surgery.

  If patients don't find relief of their pain after a chilectomy, then a more invasive surgery called a fusion can be performed. 

Pronunciation: "K-eye-leck-toe-me"

Common Misspellings: chilectomy, kailectomy

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