What Is A Cheilectomy?

A Cheilectomy procedure removes Bone Spurs from the joint of the Big toe, curing the condition known as Hallux Rigidis.

Foot Specialists define Cheilectomy as an operation of the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint, where the big toe bends and attaches back to the foot. The procedure involves a surgeon making an incision on the skin and removing excess bone with the aid of orthopedic tools that cut away at the bone spurs.

Generally, the bone spurs form at the top of the joint, but surgeons can remove bone spurs on the sides of the joint during cheilectomy surgery as well. 

Orthopedic surgeons or podiatrists perform this outpatient foot surgery under local anesthesia as either an open surgery or as a minimally invasive procedure with a smaller incision.

What Are The Reasons For A Cheilectomy?

Common factors associated with bone spurs of the big toe include:

  • Arthritis: A degenerative condition of the cartilage. Over time, the cartilage wears down, exposing the joint bone. Bone spurs can then form over these exposed areas.
  • Trauma: Such as stubbing or spraining your toe.
  • Repetitively pounding your foot, such as during sports, can lead to small bone fractures and joint inflammation. A condition described as turf toe can develop. Eventually, these issues can cause the growth of bone spurs around the injured toe.

A consequence of arthritis in the big toe, Hallux rigidus, often preceded by hallux limitus, a lesser form of arthritis in the big toe where the joint stays somewhat stiff, but not as painful as with hallux rigidus.

Often, before considering a cheilectomy, patients can manage the pain and inflammation of hallux limitus and hallux rigidus by applying alternating heat and ice, taking anti-inflammatory medication, and/or wearing orthotic shoes. When these measures do not work, you may discuss surgery with your Foot and Ankle Specialist.

How is a Cheilectomy Performed?

Usually performed while under anesthesia, patients receive a cheilectomy while asleep for the procedure. In some cases they may only need local anesthesia, which simply numbs the toe area. Either way, patients do not need to worry about feeling any discomfort during surgery.

Next, a surgeon makes a single small incision on the top of the big toe. They start by removing the excess bone and buildup on the joint, along with other debris such as bone fragments or damaged cartilage.

Once they’ve removed all the debris, they’ll close the incision using dissolving stitches and then bandage the toe and foot.

Nurses will monitor patients in the recovery area for two or three hours after surgery before discharging them.