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Hammer, claw and mallet toe surgery


At Mater Health Services we understand that being in hospital can be a very stressful experience. This booklet aims to alleviate some of your concerns in keeping with our Mission to offer compassionate, quality care that promotes dignity while responding to patients’ needs. It explains briefly the events that may occur during your visit and the things to expectwhen you are discharged from the hospital.

It is, however, only a guideline as each person may require differing treatments.

If you have any questions about your treatment please ask your doctor or nurse. Our pastoral care team offers a caring support network to all patients. The dedicated embers of this team will visit you during your stay and are available at your request to discuss anyanxieties or problems that you may have.

Hammer, claw and mallet toe surgery

All three bones in the toe should form a straight line, however with the:

imgHammer toe—the first bone of the toe is slightly raised, the second bone is tilted downwards and the bone at the tip is almost flat. It is the result of one of the tendons in the foot contracting.

Claw toe—the first bone in the toe is raised, the second two bones are pointing downwards. It is the result of one of the tendons in the foot contracting.

Mallet toe—the first two bones of the toe are in line, but slightly raised. The bone at the tip is pointing downwards. It is the result of one of the tendons in the foot contracting.

Expected length of hospital stay

The day following your surgery you will be transferred anytime from 7 am to the Transit Lounge then discharged at the pre-arranged time.

After your operation

  • You will stay in the recovery room, in the theatre suite, after your operation while you waken from the anaesthetic. You will be transferred on your bed to your room in the Day Procedure Unit.
  • Your nurse will take frequent observations of your vital signs (e.g. pulse) and dressings for several hours after the surgery. These will become less frequent as you recover but remain regular until you leave hospital.
  • Your legs will be bandaged from the toes to just below the groin. Your nurse will observe and monitor these bandages for wound ooze.
  • You will be resting in bed immediately after your surgery.


The following exercises help prevent complications suchas chest infections and blood clots in your legs. You should do these every hour that you are awake while resting in bed.

Breathing exercises: take five long and slow deep breaths. Each breath should be deeper than the previous breath. Think about getting the air to the very bottom of your lungs.

Circulation exercises: firmly move your ankles up and down to stretch and contract your calf muscles.

  • When you are ready to get out of bed for the first time following your surgery it is important that you have assistance.
  • About four hours after you return to the ward, your nurse will assist you to have a wash.
  • You may have small amounts of water or ice to suck, then progress from fluids to a normal diet as tolerated.
  • If you have pain or nausea, please tell your nurse as there are medications which can be given to relieve this. It is important to be comfortable.
  • The drip (IV) is necessary to maintain your fluid intake. This will be removed when you are tolerating adequate amounts of oral fluids.

In preparation of going home

  • Your nurse will discuss your follow-up appointment and any discharge arrangements that have been made with you.
  • Discharge information will be given to you and your nurse will discuss this with you. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.
  • A full assessment will be made prior to transferring you to the Transit Lounge in preparation for discharge to ascertain your condition is safe for you to go home.
  • You will be transferred to the Transit Lounge anytime from 7 am on the morning following your surgery. This is where you will wait for your transportation home. Those picking you up will find the Transit Lounge:
    • on level 4 Mater Hospital Brisbane
    • just inside the ambulance entrance
    • opposite the waiting area for the Emergency Department.
  • It is still recommended to perform deep breathing, coughing and leg exercises while you are resting in bed.
  • You will recommence your normal medications.
  • Please tell the nursing staff if you have any pain so that they may give you medication to help relieve it.

Discharge advice following hammer, claw and mallet toe surgery

What to expect

  • Recovery from your toe surgery takes place in the 23 hour unit as well as in your home.
  • Expect moderate swelling, stiffness and limited mobility in the operated foot following surgery. This can last as long as eight to 12 weeks.

What you can do

  • Eat well by maintaining a high-calorie, high-protein diet for optimal wound healing (meat, eggs, cheese, milk and soya-beans).
  • Weight bear as directed by your doctor .This may be restricted for at least 24 hours depending on the extent of your operation. When resting, keep the operated foot elevated above heart level.
  • Care for your wound. Ice packs may be used during the first few days after surgery to reduce swelling. Observe for signs of redness, excess swelling or drainage; follow your doctor’s instructions regarding dressing and wound care. Swelling of foot or wound may persist for several months. Your dressing will be a soft gauze dressing. If you have sutures in your wound they must be kept dry until they are removed. This is usually seven to 10 days after the operation.
  • You will be required to wear a splint for the first two to four weeks after surgery.
  • Elevate your leg for the first 48 hours.
  • Maintain personal hygiene while keeping your dressings dry (hint: place your foot in a plastic bag and tape this securely to your leg while showering).

What to avoid

  • getting the sutures or dressing wet
  • standing on your feet for a prolonged period of time.


Please contact either your General Practitioner (GP); the Mater Hospital Brisbane Procedure Unit on 07 3163 8324; or the Mater Hospital Brisbane Emergency Department on telephone 07 3163 8111, IMMEDIATELY if you experience any of the following after your procedure:

  • fever and chills
  • increased redness, swelling or drainage at wound site
  • increased pain unrelieved by pain medication.

Safe use of crutches

Crutches are not usually required but if your surgeon recommends them the physiotherapist will instruct you on their use before you go home.


To stand place your crutches forward and in a straight line, lean on your hands and your un-operated leg.


Non-weight bearing: with your crutches forward, lean on your hands and hop through, taking weight through your good leg.

Partial weight bearing: your doctor will let you know when to start taking some weight through your operated leg and when to increase the weight gain.


To sit move backward to the chair until it can be felt by your un-operated leg. Slide the crutches out and hold them in one hand. Hold the arm of the chair with your other hand and gently sit. Place your operated leg on a stool when sitting to prevent swelling.


Never vary this sequence when using the stairs:

Going up the stairs: un-operated leg—operated leg—crutches

Going down the stairs: crutches—operated leg—un-operated leg 

Be careful to place the crutches well apart and in the middle of the stair. Use the handrail with two crutches under one arm whenever possible.

Note: Never lean or take weight through your armpits—always through your hands.

SEEK MEDICAL ADVICE IMMEDIATELY if you develop pins and needles in your hands or fingers.

Remember, if your doctor wants you to use crutches he does so for a good reason—follow their advice strictly.


Mater Hospital Brisbane

Raymond Terrace, South Brisbane Q 4101

Telephone: 07 3163 8111

South Brisbane campus


Staff of Mater Hospital Brisbane, Raymond Terrace, South Brisbane, Q 4101

© 2010 Mater Misericordiae Ltd. ACN 096 708 922.

Mater acknowledges consumer consultation in the development of this patient information.
Mater Doc Num: PI-CLN-420018
Last modified 17/3/2020.
Consumers were consulted in the development of this patient information.
Last consumer engagement date: 11/8/2015
For further translated health information, you can visit healthtranslations.vic.gov.au/ supported by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services that offers a range of patient information in multiple languages.
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