What is the Lapidus procedure?

Lapidus Procedure

The Lapidus procedure is a surgical procedure used to treat a bunion deformity, also known as hallux valgus. It involves fusing the joint between the first metatarsal bone and one of the small bones in your midfoot called the medial cuneiform. Surgery includes removing the cartilage surfaces from both bones, correcting the angular deformity, then placing hardware (screws and often a small plate) to allow the two bones to grow together, or fuse.

Your foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon may perform this procedure to correct a bunion deformity with a very large angle, or when there is increased mobility through the tarsometatarsal (TMT) joint. When the TMT joint has too much looseness or movement, the condition is known as hypermobility or instability. When this joint becomes hypermobile, the first metatarsal moves too far in one direction and the big toe compensates by moving too much in the other direction. When this happens, a bunion can develop.

The goal of the Lapidus procedure is to surgically treat hallux valgus that is caused by first TMT joint hypermobility. When the first TMT joint is fused, the first metatarsal will not move abnormally. This will allow the first toe to stay straight and decrease the risk of the bunion coming back.

Symptoms

Signs surgery may be needed include:

  • A painful bunion on the inner part of the big toe. Typically, this bump causes pain when it rubs the inside of a shoe.
  • Pain and/or hypermobility at the first TMT joint.
  • Difficulties wearing shoes. When patients have a severe enough bunion due to first TMT joint hypermobility, the foot can be so wide that it is difficult to find shoes that fit.
  • Pain that doesn’t improve with non-surgical treatments such as wearing shoes with a wider toe box.

Treatment

The Lapidus procedure is an outpatient procedure, meaning the patient can go home the same day as surgery. Surgery is performed under general anesthesia so the patient is fully asleep or a nerve block is used.

Specific Technique

The Lapidus procedure often is one part of bunion correction surgery. Once the large bony prominence near the big toe is removed, attention is turned to the TMT joint. After the cartilage surfaces of each bone are removed, the alignment is corrected, and the bones are compressed together with hardware. This may be screws or a combination of a plate with screws.

Once the Lapidus is completed, an additional procedure may be necessary to complete the correction of the bunion deformity.

Recovery

Patients typically are immobilized in a splint or boot for the first two weeks after surgery to allow for the incisions to heal. They often are restricted from putting full weight on the foot.

Around six weeks after surgery, patients progress to full weightbearing in either a boot or post-op shoe, then slowly transition to regular shoes a few weeks later.

Some residual swelling and discomfort is normal up to a year after surgery. Most patients are able to return to normal activities with minimal pain and/or problems by four to six months after the surgery.

FAQs

By making the bones grow together, does that affect my ability to walk or run?

A successful Lapidus procedure should allow patients to walk or run with minimal problems or pain once they are fully recovered.

Why do I need to be non-weightbearing for so long?

Patients are asked to limit their weight bearing for several weeks in order to prevent movement between the first metatarsal and medial cuneiform bones that are trying to fuse together. If there is too much motion between the bones, it can take longer for them to heal. Typically, bones take 6-8 weeks to heal, so patients must limit weight bearing during that time.

What if my bones do not heal together?

When bones do not heal together the condition is called a nonunion. Patients who are diabetic or smoke are at higher risk for having this problem. This can also happen if patients put too much weight on the foot before the bones have a chance to fuse together. The most common symptom of a nonunion is continued pain after surgery. X-rays may show broken hardware, which suggests that there is still movement at the fused joint. Most nonunions need further surgery to achieve healing.

What is talar fracture surgery?

Talar Fracture

The talus bone makes up part of the ankle joint and the subtalar joint. The ankle joint allows for up-and-down motion and the subtalar joint supports side-to-side motion. A talar fracture is a break in the talus bone that often involves both of these important joints.

Parts of the ankle

The ankle and foot must be well-aligned for proper function. The goal of surgery is to realign the bone pieces and restore the normal bone shape. The surgery also will restore the function of the ankle and subtalar joints. This surgery should reduce the chances of developing arthritis or losing blood supply to the bone.

Diagnosis

Talar fracture surgery is needed if the bone has shifted or broken through skin, if the nerves or blood vessels are damaged, or if there is an uneven cartilage surface in the ankle or subtalar joints.

Surgery should not be performed in fractures that haven’t shifted, patients who are sick or elderly and cannot risk having anesthesia, or in patients who have very injured or burned skin over the fracture.

Treatment

Talar surgery puts the talus bone back together as best as possible. During surgery you may have a general anesthetic and be completely asleep or have your leg numbed with a nerve block. The bone is exposed with one or two incisions and the broken pieces are realigned. When the fracture is in the appropriate position, your foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon will fix the bone pieces together with plates and/or screws. Then the incisions are closed and the foot is placed into a cast or splint.

Specific Techniques

Every break has a unique fracture pattern, so surgery requires its own tailored approach. Most surgeons will place a tourniquet on the leg above or below the knee. Your surgeon will then make one or two incisions over the bone on either side of the foot. There are important tendons, nerves and blood vessels that are carefully moved out of the way in order to expose the fractured bone.

Your surgeon uses many different tools to move the fractured bone into the appropriate position. The bone pieces are then held in position with temporary pins or clamps and the positioning is checked with an X-ray. When the positioning is correct, the surgeon will place permanent screws and plates across the fracture. The final position of the bone, joints and screws/plates is confirmed on X-ray. The wounds are closed with layers of suture before the foot is placed into a cast or splint below the knee.

Recovery

You may have a short stay in the hospital depending on the severity of the fracture and other injuries. Your surgeon will monitor the incisions and bone healing for the first several weeks after surgery. You should avoid putting weight on the leg until approved by your surgeon. If the fracture was sufficiently stabilized with the plates and screws, you may be placed into a removable boot that will allow you to start moving the ankle to combat stiffness and to bathe.

For certain fractures, your surgeon may decide to place a new cast. You typically will be on crutches, putting no weight on the injured foot for 8-12 weeks after surgery until X-rays show that the fracture has healed sufficiently.

You can expect to have some degree of pain and stiffness after treatment. Some patients will require physical therapy. The complete recovery may take six to 12 months from the time of injury.

Risks and Complications

All surgeries come with possible complications, including the risks associated with anesthesia, infection, damage to nerves and blood vessels, and bleeding or blood clots. Immediate possible complications from talar surgery include wound healing problems, excess swelling, and infection. Patients typically receive intravenous antibiotics prior to surgery, but an infection still may develop in the days and weeks after surgery.

Most wounds will take about 2-4 weeks to heal safely, but this can take much longer if there were traumatic wounds, or if the patient has diabetes or smokes. In the hours to days after surgery, the foot may swell considerably after a talar fracture. If the swelling gets to be too much it may limit blood flow to the foot, resulting in a condition called compartment syndrome. There also is a chance that the bone cannot be put back to its original state, a complication called malunion. Any of these complications may require another procedure to correct.

Some of the most common long-term complications after talar fractures are arthritis and a condition called avascular necrosis (AVN) of the talus. Arthritis can occur after any severe injury to the ankle and is more likely if the fracture has shifted. AVN, which is the death of bone tissue due to a lack of blood supply, also is more frequent with fractures that have shifted.

FAQs

Will I develop arthritis after surgery?

Even if the bones heal well, the talus may develop arthritis at any of three joints: the ankle joint, the talonavicular joint, or the subtalar joint. The subtalar joint is directly below the ankle joint and is responsible for most of the side-to-side motion of our foot. Many patients experience some degree of pain, stiffness, and/or weakness after surgery.

What are the treatment options if I develop arthritis?

If arthritis develops in one or more joints after a talus fracture, it can be treated with medication, braces, injections, and activity modification. If these treatments are unsuccessful, your foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon may discuss additional surgery with you.

What if I develop avascular necrosis of the talus?

Avascular necrosis (AVN) of the talus can be a serious complication of fractures of the talus. AVN can occur with any injury depending on the severity of the fracture. If it does develop, it is not always painful. If it is painful then many of the same treatments for arthritis may be indicated, including fusion surgery.

Does smoking affect my outcome?

Yes. Smoking affects your body’s ability to heal the broken bone as well as the surrounding tissues. Smoking also increases the risk of infection. You should quit smoking immediately in order to minimize these risks.

What is syndesmosis surgery?

Syndesmosis

The two bones in the lower leg are the tibia and the fibula. The point just above the ankle where these two bones meet is called the syndesmosis. While technically a joint, it does not function like most joints as there is very little motion between the two bones. Its main functions are to provide stability to the ankle joint and to allow the joint to move.

The most common way the syndesmosis gets hurt is from a twisting or rotational injury to the ankle. The ligaments that support the syndesmosis are needed to stabilize it, and it is these ligaments that are stretched or torn when this type of injury occurs. Ankle sprains can injure the syndesmosis. The ligaments also can be injured when the ankle is broken. High ankle sprains that are commonly seen in football players are injuries to the syndesmosis.

Surgery of the syndesmosis most often is needed after a traumatic disruption. The goal of surgery is to properly align and stabilize the joint so the ligaments can heal in the correct position.

Diagnosis

Your foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon will examine your ankle. X-rays will be taken and may include a stress X-ray. This is an X-ray that is taken while your doctor carefully twists or stresses your ankle to test the stability of the syndesmosis. If there is an unstable joint, surgery is typically necessary to provide stability.

If the syndesmosis is found to be stable, it usually will not require surgical management. If you have other medical conditions that make surgery too risky for your health, your surgeon may recommend non-surgical treatment. Surgery should also be avoided if you have any active infections or chronic wounds around your ankle.

Treatment

Surgery usually is done on an outpatient basis, but sometimes an overnight stay is required. A general anesthetic typically is used and a nerve block may also be used during surgery or to provide pain relief after surgery. Your surgeon will put the syndesmosis into its proper position and secure it in place with screws or suture implants. A plate also may be used. Some foot and ankle orthopedic surgeons also look inside the ankle joint with an arthroscope to see if the cartilage is injured.

Specific Technique

After making an incision over the outside of the ankle, your surgeon will identify and expose the fibula bone and syndesmosis. Using direct vision and live X-ray techniques, your surgeon will place the syndesmosis into the correct position and set it with an implant. This typically involves one or two screws that go from the fibula bone into the tibia bone. The screws may be placed through a plate that sits on the fibula bone. Alternatively, your surgeon may use a suture device instead of screws.

A stress X-ray is performed to confirm that the syndesmosis is stable. Any additional injuries (e.g., fractures) are repaired if necessary. Your surgeon will close the incision(s) with stitches and then place your let in a splint, cast, or boot.

Recovery

After surgery, you may be immobilized in a splint for the first 10-14 days. You will typically be kept non-weightbearing for 6-8 weeks and then allowed to put weight on your foot in a cast or boot. Swelling persists for many months after this surgery. Stiffness can be problem and physical therapy often is necessary.

Risks and Complications

All surgeries come with possible complications, including the risks associated with anesthesia, infection, damage to nerves and blood vessels, and bleeding or blood clots.

The main complications that can occur after this surgery include irritation or failure of the hardware, the development of arthritis in the syndesmosis, and failure of the syndesmosis to heal properly.

FAQs

Does my hardware need to be removed?

Most of the time, orthopedic hardware does not need to be removed. In the case of syndesmosis surgery, your surgeon may recommend removing the screws that go from the fibula to the tibia. Because there normally is motion between these two bones, the screws may cause pain or limit motion. The hardware is not removed until after the syndesmosis is healed. You and your surgeon will discuss what is best for you.

What is subtalar fusion?

The subtalar joint is located just below the ankle joint between the talus bone and the calcaneus (heel) bone. The main job of the subtalar joint is to allow for side-to-side movement of the foot and ankle. This movement aids in walking, especially on uneven surfaces.

Parts of the ankle
Parts of the Ankle

A fusion surgery locks bones together and is appropriate for diseased joints that can’t be replaced. Once a fusion heals together, it acts as one unit and can restore function and provide significant pain relief. Generally speaking, fusion also is very durable.

Subtalar Fusion

Subtalar fusion is performed to either correct rigid, painful deformities or instability of the subtalar joint, or to remove painful arthritis of this joint. During surgery, this joint between the talus bone above and calcaneus bone below is removed as the joint surfaces are fixed together. The goals of subtalar fusion are to decrease symptoms and allow improved function with less pain.

Diagnosis

Those with subtalar problems typically complain of pain along the outer side of the foot just below the ankle. Subtalar pain may be mistaken for ankle pain. Patients with subtalar joint problems frequently limp, favor the painless other foot, and notice swelling in this region. People commonly have difficulty and pain while walking on uneven surfaces and complain of stiffness in the foot.

Subtalar fusion generally is performed for three reasons: to correct deformity, correct instability, or treat painful arthritis. Causes of arthritis include trauma, degeneration, rheumatologic conditions, and infections.

Treatments

Your foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon will discuss your treatment options with you before proceeding with a subtalar fusion. Skin problems in the area of the surgical site, poor overall health, or active infections may cause your surgeon to delay the procedure.

Smoking increases the risk of blood clots, wound healing problems, and the possibility the fusion won’t heal. You should completely stop nicotine use at least one month before surgery and abstain until the fusion has healed. Inability or unwillingness to follow the treatment plan may mean surgery is not for you.

Specific Technique

Patients are positioned on their back or side to allow exposure of the operative leg. Subtalar fusion is most often performed through an incision on the outer side of the foot. The joint surfaces are prepared by removing all cartilage and correcting all deformity. The bone surfaces are roughened to stimulate bleeding. This bleeding allows the two bones to heal together after the joint is fixed with hardware (screws). X-rays will be used during the surgery to ensure proper alignment and hardware position. Sometimes bone graft is added to help the healing. Once surgery is finished, the foot and ankle are placed in a well-padded splint.

Recovery

After surgery, pain medication will be required for a period of time. Some people may require medication only for a day or two and others for longer. In the first few weeks after surgery you must rest and elevate the operative leg to control swelling and allow the skin incisions to heal. When upright, you may experience throbbing and discoloration in the toes as the blood rushes back to the foot, but typically this resolves with elevation. It is important to keep weight off the foot.

Once stitches are removed, there will be fewer restrictions. A boot or cast usually is placed after the initial surgical bandages are removed. The boot or cast will be in place for 8-12 weeks, sometimes longer for certain patients. Depending on your surgeon’s assessment, weightbearing may be restricted until the X-rays show healing, or weight may slowly be added throughout the period of recovery. If the surgery is on the right foot, do not plan on driving until fully healed. X-rays will be necessary until full healing is seen.

Risks and Complications

All surgeries come with possible complications, including the risks associated with anesthesia, infection, damage to nerves and blood vessels, and bleeding or blood clots.

A potential complication of any fusion procedure is a failure of the fusion to heal, which is called a nonunion. Healing in a bad position also can occur, but this is rare. Following your surgeon’s instructions is very important to avoid complications.

What is sinus tarsi syndrome?

Sinus Tarsi Syndrome

Sinus tarsi syndrome is painful swelling on the outside of the joint below the ankle known as the subtalar joint. This joint allows the foot to move from side to side.

Causes

A common cause of sinus tarsi is flatfoot deformity. With flatfoot deformity, the arch of the foot drops and the two bones on the outside portion of the subtalar joint pinch against each other. This can put increased pressure on the soft tissue in that area, leading to inflammation of the joint lining or the tissue outside the joint.

Sinus tarsi syndrome also can occur due to arthritis in the subtalar joint, scar tissue, joint instability, or as a result of injury.

Symptoms

Sinus tarsi syndrome commonly leads to pain over the outside of the back of the foot. Swelling over the hollow between the ankle bone and the heel bone can develop. The swelling can enlarge so that it can be mistaken for a cyst or tumor.

Diagnosis

This syndrome is usually diagnosed by an exam by a foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon. Your surgeon will see swelling over the outside of the joint below the ankle and tenderness over a specific area of the foot. X-rays can be helpful in diagnosis. On X-rays, your doctor may see collapse of the arch or arthritis.

Treatments

There are non-surgical and surgical treatment options available. In most cases, your doctor will attempt non-surgical treatments first. Anti-inflammatory medications may decrease the swelling in the sinus tarsi. A steroid injection may be tried if other medicines do not relieve the pain. An arch support can be used to relieve the pinching of the subtalar joint. A brace can be applied to the ankle and back of the foot to support and rest the subtalar joint.

Surgical treatments vary depending on the cause of the sinus tarsi pain. Options include removal of inflammation and scarring of the sinus tarsi. This can be done in an open or arthroscopic technique.

If a flatfoot is the cause of the sinus tarsi pain, your surgeon may recommend correction of the flatfoot. If the subtalar joint has advanced arthritis, your doctor may recommend a subtalar fusion (arthrodesis).

Recovery

If surgery is performed, the recovery involves limited weightbearing until the stitches are removed and a fracture boot is placed on the foot. Weightbearing may be allowed at that time depending on the surgery performed. Usually, physical therapy is ordered to help regain range of motion and strength. A boot may be used for several weeks to aid walking.

Risks and Complications

All surgeries come with possible complications, including the risks associated with anesthesia, infection, damage to nerves and blood vessels, and bleeding or blood clots.

FAQs

Are there things that make people more likely to develop sinus tarsi syndrome?

People with flat feet and those who participate in activities that require cutting maneuvers can be more prone to this syndrome. Also, repetitive activities on uneven surfaces can make someone more likely to develop symptoms.

How often is surgery necessary to treat sinus tarsi syndrome?

Surgery usually is not necessary in most patients who develop sinus tarsi syndrome. Non-surgical treatment can be very successful in relieving pain and swelling. Prior to considering surgery, it is important to see a foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon to identify the cause of the sinus tarsi syndrome and the best treatment for that problem.