1st Metatarsophalangeal Joint Fusion
Your 1st Metatarsophalangeal Joint (MTP) is one of the joints in your big toe. This joint is involved in pushing your foot away from the ground as you take steps forward. It is therefore a very important joint for normal walking.
When this joint is affected by arthritis (see Hallux Rigidus or rheumatoid arthritis), it can become extremely painful and stiff. When pain becomes so severe that walking is difficult or impossible, a fusion operation or arthrodesis is recommended to reduce the pain.
A fusion is a procedure where the remaining damaged cartilage is totally removed and the two bones that form the joint are fused. This results in an irreversibly stiff joint that is stable and often completely painless. The lack of movement in this joint does however mean that the other joints in your foot will have to compensate for the loss of movement. This can result in a subtly abnormal walking pattern and arthritis in other joints.
The fusion is usually held by either 2 screws or a plate that remain in your toe permanently. After the operation you will not be able to put weight through your toe for six weeks (non-weight bearing), however during this time you will have crutches and can put weight through your heel. During the early period of your recovery, you should try to keep your leg elevated as much as possible.
Most people are satisfied with fusion, despite the loss of movement.