Recovery from toe surgery

It takes a long time to recover from toe surgery.

It is possible to make conclusions about the success of the surgery only after 6–12 months: until then you may experience discomfort, swelling and some pain.

Before leaving the hospital, you receive instructions for follow-up care from the doctor. Follow-up care will be performed either in Ortokliinik or with your general practitioner.

The duration and contents of follow-up care depends of the performed surgery.

We have described here the general aspects of recovery from toe surgery.

Tablets are used for post-operative pain management. Severe foot pain should relieve in 2–3 days.

During the first three days after the surgery, it is advised to stay in the lying position for the most of the time and keep the operated foot elevated above the heart (for example, on three pillows on top of each other). You may walk only in case of extreme necessity and should always use a special shoe.

You should walk as little as possible during the 2 weeks after the surgery and keep your operated foot elevated when sitting (supported by a chair).

In normal conditions, you are allowed to walk after the surgery wearing a special shoe that distributes weight-bearing pressure from the operated area to the heel.

Special shoes should be worn for 6–8 weeks, depending on the type of surgery, only when walking. When you are resting or sleeping, you should remove the shoe. Using crutches or a cane together with the special shoe is not indicated.

After certain surgeries, a toe alignment splint is used to keep the first toe in the right position 24 hours a day for 6 weeks.

Sometimes cast is used to protect your foot or no medical appliance is used at all.

Placing a cold pack on the operated foot four times a day for 20 minutes during 2 weeks after the surgery helps to avoid wound complications and excessive foot swelling. To prevent skin damage, a dry terry towel should be placed in one layer on the foot beneath the cold pack.

Healing of the wounds is assessed during wound dressing.

Due to bleeding, most patients require wound dressing one day after the surgery. If the wounds are healing as expected, your foot wound will be dressed every 7 days. Sutures are removed 14 days after the surgery.

In order to prevent excessive scar tissue, you may use Contractubex gel during three months after suture removal.

The screws and plates used for fastening the bone sections are placed deep in the bone during the surgery so it is not necessary to remove them. In case of the 2nd to 5th toe surgery, metal rods are used to maintain the correct position of the toes; these rods will be removed four weeks after the surgery during wound dressing. The removal of rods is more likely uncomfortable than painful and the procedure requires no analgesia.

After the metal rods have been removed, the operated toes are fixed in the required position with adhesive bandage for another month. This is called taping. Only the operated toes are taped. Adhesive bandage is removed for washing and physical therapy. The toe is taped again after each washing or exercising session. The toe should be taped both day and night.

Most toe surgeries require post-operative active physical therapy. Specific exercises are described in the follow-up care instructions.

The uncovered parts of the operated foot are cleaned with a damp cloth. You may wash the operated foot one day after suture removal. If the toes are fixed with metal rods, you can wash your foot only after the rods have been removed. Until then you should cover your foot with a watertight plastic bag for bathing, and tape its opening firmly around your calf. If the dressing gets accidentally a little wet, let it dry. If it is soaked, you should see the nurse (doctor) and have it redressed.

Sea salt baths reduce foot pain and swelling. You may begin with sea salt baths after the removal of all sutures and metal rods from the operated foot.

Depending on the type of surgical procedure, you may drive a car or take public transportation 6–8 weeks after the surgery.

After you have stopped wearing the special shoe, you may try bicycling and swimming. Nordic walking, running, jumping and cross-country skiing are allowed after your normal walking ability has restored or about 12 weeks after the surgery. When practicing sports, you may burden your foot until you feel pain.

The period of incapacity for work depends on the type of surgery and your occupation: 8–12 weeks for office employees, 4 weeks longer in case of physical professions.

You may start wearing ordinary footwear 6–8 weeks after the surgery. Until foot swelling has decreased and the pain in the operated area has relieved, we advise to use soft footwear about 1–2 sizes larger. It may be possible to wear shoes that you like only 3–4 months after the surgery.

For the rest of your life, you should wear shoes that have roomy toe boxes, arch support and 3–5cm heels.