Hammertoe Surgery: What To Expect

A hammertoe deformity causes any of your toes to bend and flex at the knuckles causing the tip
of the toe to curl downwards. This can affect any of the toes and may even impact more
than one toe at a time.

For many patients, lifestyle changes will improve the pain of the deformity but may not actually correct the hammertoe condition unless it is a very recent issue, or the toes are still very flexible and pliable.

However, Dr. Schoene and Dr. Bever may recommend surgery if the conservative treatment interventions don’t correct the problem or if you suffer from a particularly severe case.

Hammertoe surgery isn’t right for every patient, but in many cases, this procedure can provide
the relief that you’re looking for, allowing you to walk without pain from the toes rubbing
against the shoes and causing painful calluses or bursitis issues.

Here’s what you can expect if you’ve scheduled surgery for a hammertoe.

Types of Hammertoe Surgery

Surgeons typically address hammertoe in one of three ways. The type of surgery you undergo
will depend on the specifics of your condition. Dr. Bever or Dr. Schoene will likely choose one
of the following:

  • Joint Resection: The surgeon cuts the ligaments and tendons in the toe so it can straighten properly. Your surgeon may also remove a small portion of the bone and put pins in place to keep your toe straight. This procedure is typically done for a fixed hammertoe that can’t bend at all.
  • Fusion: The surgeon cuts ligaments and tendons to straighten the toe, then cuts the ends of both bones in the connecting joint so they fit together. Pins or screws keep the toe in place as the bones fuse. This procedure may be done if there are some stability issues of the toe or if there is a bunion present as well.
  • Tendon Transfer: The Surgeon reroutes the tendons, moving them from the bottom of the toe to the top to pull the toe into a straighter position. This procedure is more involved and typically used when there are stability issues at the corresponding joint below the toe. It may involve some shortening of the bones as well.

Preparing for Surgery

You’ll have a pre-operative meeting with Dr. Bever or Dr. Schoene to discuss the upcoming
surgery. Your surgeon will explain the procedure and give you a chance to ask any questions that
you might have. At this visit, you’ll discuss the type of anesthesia you’d like to have for the
procedure. In most cases, you can have hammertoe surgery with just a local anesthetic. However,
most patients prefer to have light sedation while in the operating room; the toe will be numb, and
some pressure may be felt, but there will be no pain.

Your surgeon will give you detailed instructions for the day of the surgery. You may need to adjust your daily medications beforehand. If you opt for IV sedation or local anesthesia, you can’t eat or drink after midnight on the day of the surgery.

The Day of Surgery

You should arrange for someone to accompany you on the day of surgery, as you’ll need a ride home from the hospital or surgery center. Patients typically go home from hammertoe surgery the same day. Wear comfortable clothing, loose pants, and non-slip shoes. You’ll change into a hospital gown for the procedure, but you’ll need to have clothing you can easily change back into after the procedure. You’ll wear a special boot home on the affected foot.

Bring your insurance card, ID, and any relevant paperwork or pre-surgical test results with you on the day of your surgery. Your doctor may ask you to bring a set of crutches or another assistive device to the surgery center as well.

The Surgical Procedure

The surgical procedure will begin with a brief meeting to review the surgery. A nurse will identify and mark the foot on which you’ll have the procedure. You’ll change into a hospital gown, and the staff will transfer you to the surgery room. Here, you’ll receive the anesthesia you decided on earlier.

If you have only local anesthesia, you can communicate with the surgical team throughout the
procedure and let them know if you’re feeling any discomfort. If you opt for IV sedation
anesthesia, the anesthesiologist may place oxygen in your nose and insert an IV in the arm for
the medication to be given.

After Surgery

You’ll typically stay at the surgery center until you’re able to stand, eat, drink, and urinate
comfortably. If you’re having trouble moving about, feel extremely nauseous, or have difficulty
urinating, you may need to stay in the hospital or surgery center longer. Typically patients stay
for an hour or so after surgery and then are released to home. Your surgeon will give you a surgical
boot to protect your foot on the way home. You may also receive pain medication or some
anti-inflammatories to take.


For the first few weeks after surgery, you should keep your foot elevated as much as possible to speed up recovery. Keep your foot dry during this time. You’ll return to Dr. Schoene or Dr. Bevers’s office every week after surgery to have your bandages changed. Your surgeon may also need to remove any stitches or pins at this time.

For typical cases, you may be back in regular gym shoes at the 3-4 week mark unless there is
some more extensive procedure or if the hammertoe surgery was part of another procedure, follow
the instructions you are given before surgery regarding your post-op care. You may need to
keep your foot dry and use only a gentle sponge bath on your foot for several weeks.

You may experience swelling for up to a year after hammertoe surgery. You’ll probably need to wear a wider shoe or use special inserts to accommodate your foot. Your surgeon may recommend physical therapy post-surgery to help speed your recovery.

If you’re struggling with a painful hammertoe, our team can help. Contact Dr. Schoene and Dr. Bever to learn more about your options for hammertoe treatment and find out whether surgery is the right choice for your needs. You can schedule your first appointment online now.