Problems After Hammertoe Surgery

Problems After Hammertoe Surgery

Table of Contents

Hammertoe is an unpleasant foot condition that often needs to be corrected with a surgical procedure. As with any surgery, no matter how simple, there can be some problems after hammertoe surgery as well. They don’t happen in every case but are possible. So, what are the most common hammertoe surgery complications? Keep reading to find out all about them. 

How Common Are Problems After Surgery?

Hammertoe surgeries can mean many different procedures – there are minimally invasive procedures and others that are more traditional surgeries. Whichever procedure your doctor recommends for your deformity, you can rest assured that there’s nothing to stress about. Hammertoe surgeries are among the most straightforward and simple procedures – they are outpatient surgeries, which means you won’t even have to stay in the hospital until you recover. In most cases, you won’t even need general anesthesia – a local one will be enough. 

With all this said, it’s still important to keep in mind that no matter how simple the surgery is, there are some risks that go with it. Every surgery poses a certain risk to the patient’s health, and it’s important to know that – even if the risk is minimal, like with hammertoe surgeries. The success rate of hammertoe surgeries is 80-90%, depending on the procedure, so you most likely won’t have any problem post-op. Still, it’s important to know what you can expect. 

What Are the Most Common Problems After Hammertoe Surgery?

Hammertoe is a deformity where one of the lesser toes, usually the second, is bent at a certain angle to the foot and can’t be straightened. It might not be symptomatic in the beginning, but as time goes on, a hammertoe will evolve from a flexible joint into a rigid one. It will become painful and affect your everyday life. 

That’s where surgery comes to the scene. There are a few ways to fix this deformity, like tendon transfer, joint resection, or a fusion procedure. Whichever you undergo, there is a possibility that you might face the following problems during your recovery period. 

Pain and Swelling

Of course, it’s reasonable to expect some pain and swelling after the surgery – the procedure requires cutting of your skin, soft tissue, and even bones, so it makes sense that there will be some pain at the surgical site until that heals. With minimally invasive procedures, the trauma to the tissue is significantly smaller, so there will be less pain. 

Thankfully, there are pain medications that can keep the pain under control during the recovery process. Your surgeon will recommend which drugs to use – usually, it’s one of the over-the-counter medications. Swelling is also a direct consequence of tissue trauma, and it can be decreased by elevating your leg and icing just above the surgical site. In some rare cases, pain and swelling can remain permanently after the surgery. 


Cutting the skin and soft tissue is bound to leave a scar – the size of it depends on the surgical technique that was used, but it’s usually a small scar that fades away over time. Aesthetically, it’s nothing to worry about. However, in some cases, a keloid scar can develop at the incision site. This type of scar tissue is an overgrowth that becomes red, inflamed, and sometimes painful and is more likely to occur in the African-American population. 


Since there is an incision on your toe, an infection of the surgical site is always a possibility, no matter how unlikely. If you happen to get your toe infected, usually, a course of oral antibiotics will be enough to fix the problem. However, in rare cases, the infection can spread to the bone and cause a condition known as osteomyelitis. This is a serious condition that requires the application of intravenous antibiotics. 

Delayed Healing

Delayed healing is most common in smokers and patients with metabolic diseases such as diabetes. There is also a possibility of wound dehiscence – that means the wound won’t heal properly or breaks open after healing. Usually, the cause of dehiscence is an infection of the surgical site. 

Floating Toe

A floating toe is, as the name suggests, a toe that sticks up in the air and can’t lay flat on the surface. It can be either floppy or stiff and can even cross over the adjacent toe. A floppy toe does not only cause pain and discomfort but will also pose a problem with force distribution and balance. You might require a second surgery to fix this deformity. 

Recurrence of Deformity

If a surgeon fails to diagnose the exact underlying issue that causes a hammertoe, there is a chance that the deformity might return. That’s because the wrong diagnosis of a biomechanical cause leads to the wrong selection of a surgical procedure. Even if the right surgical procedure was chosen, there is still a possibility of not executing it properly – the surgeon can make a technical mistake that will result in a recurrence of your deformity. 

Talk to Your Surgeon About Problems After Hammertoe Surgery

As you can see, there are a few things that can go wrong after the hammertoe surgery. That’s why it is important to know what you can expect in the postoperative period. Talk to your surgeon about your expectations and possible complications – the more you know, the better. You can contact us at Luxe Foot Surgery clinic to book your consultation with our excellent specialist. Call our office or reach out via an inquiry form – we are waiting for you. 


How Long Does It Take to Completely Recover From Hammertoe Surgery?

It depends on the type of procedure that was performed, but with minimally invasive techniques, the recovery period is usually about 4-6 weeks. 

Can Hammertoe Surgery Fail?

Yes, it can, but rarely. If the surgeon doesn’t address the underlying biomechanical issue that causes the hammertoe or they made a mistake during surgery, the deformity can return. 

Can You Bend Your Toe After Hammertoe Surgery?

You may or may not be able to bend your toe after hammertoe surgery – it depends on the procedure. Most surgeries will result in some level of stiffness in the treated toe.


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