Cheilectomy surgery helps relieve problems in your big toe joint due to hallux rigidus, which causes pain, stiffness and inflexibility. During cheilectomy, surgeons remove bone spurs and bone tissue to relieve pain and create room in your toe joint for greater flexibility and range of motion.
Cheilectomy (pronounced “ky-LEK-tuh-me”) is surgery to remove bone spurs and bone from your foot so your big toe has enough space to bend.
If you have hallux rigidus, painful bone spurs (osteophytes) may develop on your MTP joint. These bone spurs form a lump in your skin that makes wearing a shoe painful. It can make it difficult to move and walk.
A healthcare provider may perform cheilectomy if you have mild to moderate hallux rigidus and nonsurgical treatments haven’t helped.
Nonsurgical treatments for hallux rigidus include:
Both surgeries remove bone spurs. The main difference between cheilectomy and bunion surgery is the location of the bone spurs.
In cheilectomy, surgeons remove bone spurs from the top of your MTP joint. A bunion (hallux valgus) is a bone spur that forms on the outside of your big toe. Healthcare providers perform bunionectomy when a bunion causes pain and immobility in your toe joint.
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Before cheilectomy, a healthcare provider does a physical examination. They may check the range of motion of your toe. You may have X-rays or other imaging tests so your provider can see the joint and any bone spurs.
During cheilectomy, your healthcare provider makes an incision in the top (dorsal side) of your foot to remove bone spurs. Bilateral cheilectomy is surgery performed on both feet at the same time.
The procedure details for cheilectomy may differ slightly depending on the type of surgery you have:
Cheilectomy is usually outpatient surgery, so you’ll go home the same day. After the procedure, you’ll wear a special shoe for a few weeks while your foot heals. Your healthcare provider may recommend a pain reliever like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help you manage discomfort.
For many people, cheilectomy relieves pain and improves flexibility in their big toe.
Some people who have cheilectomy continue to have pain when moving their big toe. They may need more surgery to:
Cheilectomy recovery time varies. Your foot may be swollen for a few weeks or a few months after cheilectomy surgery. After surgery, wear the special support shoe for a couple of weeks as your foot heals.
Your healthcare provider will let you know when you can return to work. Most people are back on the job in about one to two months. If you have significant pain or swelling — or if your job requires a lot of movement — it may take a bit longer to return to work.
As with any surgery, infection and scarring can happen.
Other complications after cheilectomy surgery include:
Call your healthcare provider if the skin around your incision becomes red or extremely swollen.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Hallux rigidus causes pain, stiffness and bone spurs to form on the top of your big toe joint. Cheilectomy is surgery to remove bone spurs and bone from your foot so your big toe has enough space to bend. During cheilectomy, your surgeon removes bone spurs to relieve pain and give your joint room to move. Cheilectomy can relieve big toe pain and inflexibility.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/24/2022.
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