Historically, the postoperative protocol for patients undergoing first metatarsophalangeal joint arthrodesis has included 6 weeks of non-weightbearing, followed by protected weightbearing in a below-the-knee cast boot or postoperative shoe. This prolonged period of non-weightbearing predisposes the patient to disuse atrophy, osteopenia, deep vein thrombosis risk, and, overall, a prolonged time to recovery. The present study reports a retrospective review of a patient cohort that underwent first metatarsophalangeal joint fusion with immediate full weightbearing postoperatively. Thirty consecutive first metatarsophalangeal joint arthrodeses were performed during the study period. Five patients were excluded secondary to insufficient postoperative follow-up data or a lack of adequate radiographic evaluation at regular postoperative intervals. Conical reamers were used for joint preparation. Internal fixation, consisting of a single cannulated interfragmentary compression screw and a dorsal locking plate, was used in all patients. The results showed that patients achieved clinical healing at an average of 5.92 weeks and showed radiographic fusion at an average of 6.83 weeks. The patients in the present study had an overall union rate of 96%. Complications included 1 nonunion, 1 superficial wound infection, 1 wound dehiscence, 1 case of symptomatic hardware, and 2 patients with symptomatic hallux interphalangeal joint arthralgia. The mean visual analog pain score preoperatively was 6.64 (range 4 to 8) and postoperatively was 0.6 (range 0 to 4). In conclusion, we found that immediate full weightbearing after first metatarsophalangeal joint fusion in the context of interfragmentary compression and locked plating techniques is a safe, predictable postoperative protocol that allows for a successful fusion interval and an early return to regular activity.
Level of Clinical Evidence: 4