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Metatarsal Phalangeal Joint Fusion: What to Expect at Home

Before and after metatarsal phalangeal joint fusion, showing a painful and swollen toe joint before surgery and showing a plate and screws on the fused joint of the big toe after surgery

Your Recovery

You had surgery on your foot to remove the joint at the base of your toe. After your surgery, your foot may be red and swollen. Pain and swelling should slowly improve over the next 6 weeks. You may not be able to put weight on the foot during those 6 weeks. You may have some minor pain and swelling that lasts as long as 6 months to a year.

After surgery, you may need to wear a special type of shoe or boot for 3 to 6 weeks. It will help protect your foot and keep your bones in the right position. Your doctor will remove your stitches about 2 weeks after the surgery.

Follow your doctor's instructions for putting weight on your foot. And follow any other special directions your doctor gives you.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Activity

  • Rest when you feel tired.
  • You may shower, unless your doctor tells you not to. Keep the bandage dry. If the bandage has been removed, you can wash the area with warm water and soap. Pat the area dry.
  • Many people are able to return to work within several weeks after surgery.
  • You may need to avoid heavy lifting for 3 to 8 weeks or longer.
  • You may need to do regular rehabilitation (rehab) exercises to strengthen your foot and improve movement. Start out slowly, and follow your doctor's instructions.

Diet

  • You can eat your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
  • If your bowel movements are not regular right after surgery, try to avoid constipation and straining. Drink plenty of water. Your doctor may suggest fibre, a stool softener, or a mild laxative.

Medicines

  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if and when to start taking this medicine again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.

Incision care

  • You will leave the hospital with bandages around your foot. Your doctor will probably remove the bandages after several days. Or your doctor may have you remove your bandages at home. Do not touch the surgery area. Keep it dry.
  • Do not soak your foot until your doctor says it is okay.

Ice and elevation

  • For pain and swelling, put ice or a cold pack on your foot for 10 to 20 minutes each hour. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
  • Prop up your foot and leg on a pillow when you ice it or anytime you sit or lie down during the next 3 days. Try to keep it above the level of your heart. This will help reduce swelling.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.
  • You have severe trouble breathing.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your foot or toes are cool or pale or change colour.
  • You have numbness, tingling, or less feeling in your foot or toe.
  • You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
  • You have loose stitches, or your incision comes open.
  • Bright red blood has soaked through the bandage over your incision.
  • You have symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for any changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You do not have a bowel movement after taking a laxative.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.