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.


What is cheilectomy?

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.

What conditions does cheilectomy treat?

Cheilectomy treats hallux rigidus (“stiff big toe”). Hallux rigidus is a type of osteoarthritis in your big toe joint, the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint.

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.

Why is cheilectomy done?

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:

What’s the difference between cheilectomy and bunion surgery?

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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Procedure Details

What happens before cheilectomy?

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.

How do healthcare providers perform cheilectomy?

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.

Are there different types of cheilectomy surgery?

The procedure details for cheilectomy may differ slightly depending on the type of surgery you have:

  • Open cheilectomy uses one large incision.
  • Minimally invasive cheilectomy uses smaller incisions. Surgeons insert an instrument called a burr through small incisions in your foot to remove bone spurs. You may heal faster after minimally invasive cheilectomy.

What happens after cheilectomy?

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.

Risks / Benefits

What are the advantages of cheilectomy?

For many people, cheilectomy relieves pain and improves flexibility in their big toe.


What are the risks or complications of cheilectomy?

Some people who have cheilectomy continue to have pain when moving their big toe. They may need more surgery to:

  • Repair hallux rigidus.
  • Fuse bones (arthrodesis procedure).
  • Help relieve pressure on damaged cartilage in their toe joint (Moberg osteotomy surgery).

Recovery and Outlook

How long will cheilectomy recovery take?

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.

When can I go back to work after cheilectomy?

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.

Are there cheilectomy complications?

As with any surgery, infection and scarring can happen.

Other complications after cheilectomy surgery include:

  • Worsening of hallux rigidus.
  • Pain in the ball of your foot.
  • Needing more surgery, including bone fusion surgery (arthrodesis).

When to Call the Doctor

When should I see my healthcare provider after cheilectomy?

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.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/24/2022.

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