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What is a Cheilectomy? | A Surgical Option for Hallux Rigidus | Find Your Stride | Edinburgh Podiatrist


A cheilectomy is a surgical procedure commonly used to treat osteoarthritis of the big toe joint, also known as hallux rigidus. This condition causes stiffness, pain, swelling, and difficulty when walking or engaging in physical activities. In this blog post, we will explore the details of a cheilectomy, including when it might be considered, what the procedure involves, its benefits, associated risks, and the expected recovery time.

An x-ray of a foot pointing out osteophytes
Osteophytes (these would be removed during a cheilectomy) and a loss of joint space are typical of osteoarthritis

When might a cheilectomy be considered?

A cheilectomy may be considered when conservative treatments such as rest, physical therapy, medication, steroid injection and orthotics have not provided relief from the symptoms of hallux rigidus. It may also be recommended if there is significant cartilage damage and bone spurs in the big toe joint.

What does the procedure involve?

During a cheilectomy, the surgeon removes the bone spurs and a portion of the dorsal bony bump on the top of the big toe joint. This helps to alleviate the pain and improve the range of movement in the joint.

What are the benefits?

The primary benefit of a cheilectomy is the reduction of pain and improvement in the mobility of the big toe joint. This can allow patients to return to their regular activities and enjoy a better quality of life.

What are the risks?

As with any surgical procedure, there are risks associated with a cheilectomy, including infection, nerve damage, on-going joint stiffness, and potential recurrence of symptoms. The specific risks will depend on the individuals case and their medical history, so a surgical consultation is essential to explore things further.

How long is the recovery time?

Recovery from a cheilectomy may take several weeks to months, depending on the individual patient's health and the extent of the surgery. Physical therapy may be recommended to aid in the recovery process. In a healthy individual it would be reasonable to expect a return to work after 3-4 weeks and normal activities after 3 months. However, there could still be some pain and swelling from the joint for up to 6 months.


In conclusion, a cheilectomy can be an effective option for individuals suffering from hallux rigidus who have not found relief from non-surgical treatments. While there are risks involved, the potential benefits of reduced pain and improved mobility make it a viable option for many patients.

Find Your Stride!

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