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Foot Surgery: Degenerative Joint Disease

Image of the toe joint showing bone growth

BIG: Degenerative joint disease (arthritis) often happens in the joint of the big toe. In addition, bone growth may cause pain and stiffness in the joint. Left untreated, arthritis can break down the cartilage and destroy the joint. Your treatment choices depend on how damaged your joint is. There are many nonsurgical treatments. But if these are not helpful, surgery may be considered.

Image of big toe joint showing bone growth trimmed


This is done when the arthritic joint and cartilage can be saved. A bone spur caused by arthritis may be symptomatic on the top of the big toe joint. The procedure involves removing this bone spur, often with a small part of the top of the joint itself.  You will need to wear a surgical shoe for several weeks. Once the foot heals, joint movement can be restored.

Image of big toe joint showing joint removed and screws fusing the bones together


In fusion, the cartilage and some bone on both sides of the joint are removed. Then, the big toe and metatarsal bones are held together with staples, screws, or a plate and screws. Your foot may be placed in a cast, shoe, or boot. While you heal, you will be asked not to bear weight on this foot. You may also need crutches for several weeks. Because the joint has been removed, your toe will be less flexible.

Image of the big toe joint showing the part of the joint removed and a pin connecting the bones


During surgery, bone growth and arthritis is trimmed, and part of the joint is removed. A pin can be used to align the bones and to keep them from touching. The pin is removed after several weeks. In some cases, the entire joint or part of the joint may be replaced with an implant. You may have to wear a splint or a surgical shoe for several weeks. When healed, the bones become connected with scar tissue.

Online Medical Reviewer: Banerjee, Rahul, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Bass, Pat F. III, MD, MPH
Date Last Reviewed: 5/1/2018
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