Hallux Valgus Osteotomy

Updated: Apr 04, 2016
  • Author: Vinod K Panchbhavi, MD, FACS; Chief Editor: Erik D Schraga, MD  more...
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Hallux valgus is a deformity at the base of the big toe, or metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint, in which the great toe, or hallux, is deviated or points toward the lesser toes; in severe types of the deformity, the great toe goes over or under the second toe.

The musculotendinous attachments in the great toe bypass without any attachment to the head of the metatarsal itself to be inserted into base of the proximal and distal phalanges. When the great toe is in a normal alignment, the muscle forces exerted around it are balanced. Deformity is associated with muscle imbalance at the MTP joint. The muscle imbalance increases with the deformity; in long-standing hallux valgus deformity, a contracture in the overpowering lateral muscles and stretching of the medial capsule exists. As the deformity increases, the metatarsal head becomes prominent medially, giving rise to the bunion deformity.

A number of operative procedures and osteotomies have been devised and or modified over the years. The great variety of procedures and osteotomies devised underlines the facts that all hallux valgus deformities are not similar and that no single versatile osteotomy can treat them all. Therefore, selection of the exact procedure(s) to be employed for operative intervention is based on carefully clinical and radiologic evaluation and planning.

Decision making requires careful consideration of the following:

  • History - Patient age; duration and severity and location of pain; involvement of other joints; response to conservative care; activity level; occupation; expectations
  • Comorbidities - Diabetes mellitus; rheumatoid arthritis; gout; stroke; any other underlying spastic neurologic conditions
  • Physical findings - Severity of deformity; presence of bursitis, cellulitis, calluses, rotational deformity, or pronation; passive reducibility of the hallux valgus subluxation or the bunion deformity; hypermobility of the metatarsocuneiform (MTC) and other joints; pes planus; gastrocnemius contracture; neurovascular status
  • Diagnostic imaging - Radiographic evaluation of the hallux valgus; intermetatarsal (IM), interphalangeal (IP), distal metatarsal articular angles; MTP joint congruity; sesamoid-metatarsal head subluxation; MTC joint congruity or arthrosis; relative lengths of the metatarsals and the parabola at MTP joints 1-5


Failure of conservative care to relieve symptoms due to hallux valgus deformity is an indication for consideration of surgical intervention. Some patients worry that the deformity may become worse and therefore prefer it to be corrected earlier rather than later.

However, rapid progression of a hallux valgus deformity is unusual; therefore, the deformity can be observed and the decision regarding surgery based mainly on symptoms. Pain and discomfort and failure of conservative measures to relieve symptoms and meet lifestyle needs should be the major considerations for surgical correction.



Patients should be made to realize that return to professional or recreational activities (eg, sports or dancing) cannot be guaranteed. They must fully understand that some residual stiffness, pain, or deformity may be inevitable. After surgery, they may or may not be able to return to their previous level of activity. Therefore, until they can no longer perform in their chosen field, bunion surgery should probably be deferred. If patients can eventually resume their previous level of activity after surgery, they will be much more satisfied with the outcome. [1]

At present, reputable societies such as the American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society (AOFAS) advise against cosmesis as an indication for surgery. Surgery should not be performed just to enable patients to wear fashionable shoes. Patients who have bunion surgery only because they believe that they will then be able to wear a more fashionable shoe are subsequently disappointed when this goal cannot be achieved.

In reviewing more than 300 bunion cases, Coughlin and Jones observed that a third of patients could wear the shoes that they wanted before surgery and that two thirds could after surgery. Unfortunately, this still leaves one third of patients unable to wear their shoe of choice, and this should be explained to the patient who do not have pain but simply want to fit their feet into narrower shoes. [2, 3]

Dysvascular patients with poor vascularity are at risk for wound-healing problems and gangrene with loss of toes. Other contraindications include advanced arthrosis of the MTP joint, gout, neuropathy, spasticity of any type (eg, cerebral palsy, cerenrovascular accident [CVA], or head injury), and ligamentous laxity.


Technical Considerations


The metatarsal bones are roughly cylindrical in form, with the body tapering gradually from the proximal to the distal end. They are curved in the long axis and present a concave plantar surface and a convex dorsal surface.

The first metatarsal bone is the stoutest and the shortest of the metatarsal bones. The body is strong and of well-marked prismoid form. The base usually has no articular facets on its sides, but occasionally there is an oval facet on the lateral side, by which the first metatarsal articulates with the second metatarsal.

The proximal articular surface of the first metatarsal is large and kidney-shaped; its circumference is grooved (for the tarsometatarsal ligaments) and medially gives insertion to part of the tendon of the tibialis anterior; its plantar angle presents a rough, oval prominence for the insertion of the tendon of the fibularis (peroneus) longus. The head is large; on its plantar surface are two grooved facets, on which glide sesamoid bones; the facets are separated by a smooth elevation.

For more information about the relevant anatomy, see Foot Bone Anatomy.

Complication prevention

It is essential to remain constantly aware of the anatomy and location of the neurovascular structures. Careful dissection and retraction of the flaps before execution of the osteotomy is important to prevent soft-tissue damage. Also, thermal damage should be avoided by using a low setting on the driver for the saw, performing irrigation, employing a sharp thin blade with fine teeth, and taking care to unclog the teeth if the same saw is being used.



Jeuken et al published a level II randomized control trial that provided long-term follow-up data on the results of two widely used operative treatments for hallux valgus: scarf osteotomy (36 feet) and chevron osteotomy (37 feet). [4] Conventional weightbearing anteroposterior (AP) radiographs of the foot were made for evaluating the IM angle and the hallux valgus angle and for clinical evaluation. The AOFAS rating system for the hallux MTP-IP scale was used, together with physical examination of the foot. These data were compared with the results from the original study.

The Short Form 36 (SF-36) questionnaire, the Manchester-Oxford Foot Questionnaire (MOXFQ), and a general questionnaire including a visual analogue scale (VAS) pain score were used for subjective evaluation. [4] The primary outcome measures were the radiologic recurrence of hallux valgus and the reoperation rate of the same toe. Secondary outcome measures were the results from the radiographs and subjective and clinical evaluation.

At 14 years' follow-up, the response rate was 76%. [4] In all, 28 of the 37 feet in the chevron group and 27 of the 36 in the scarf group developed recurrence of hallux valgus. One patient in the scarf group had a reoperation of the same toe, compared with none in the chevron group. Current VAS pain scores and results from the SF-36, MOXFQ, and AOFAS did not significantly differ between groups.The authors concluded that the two techniques yielded similar results after 2 years of follow-up. At 14 years' follow-up, neither technique was superior in preventing recurrence.

Wester et al conducted a prospective randomized study to assess radiologic and clinical results after operation for severe hallux valgus, comparing open wedge osteotomy with crescentic osteotomy. [5] The study included 45 patients (41 female, 4 male) with severe hallux valgus (hallux valgus angle >35º and IM angle >15º). Mean patient age was 52 years (range, 19-71 years). Treatment involved either proximal open wedge osteotomy and fixation with plate (group 1) or operation with proximal crescentic osteotomy and fixation with a 3-mm cannulated screw (group 2). Clinical and radiologic follow-ups were performed 4 and 12 months after the operation.

In group 1, the hallux valgus angle decreased from 39.0º to 24.1º after 4 months and to 27.9º after 12 months. [5] In group 2, it decreased from 38.3º to 21.4º after 4 months and to 27.0º after 12 months. The IM angle in group 1 was 19.0º preoperatively, 11.6º after 4 months. and 12.6º after 12 months. In group 2, the mean IM angle was 18.9º preoperatively, 12.0º after 4 months, and 12.6º after 12 months. After 12 months, the AOFAS score improved from 59.3 to 81.5 in group 1 and from 61.8 to 84.8 in group 2. The relative lengths of the first metatarsal relative to the second were 0.88 and 0.87 preoperatively and 0.88 and 0.86 after 12 months for groups 1 and 2, respectively.

The authors concluded that both procedures improved AOFAS and VAS scores in patients operated on for severe hallux valgus. [5] No significant difference was found between the two groups with respect to postoperative improvement of hallux valgus and IM angles 4 and 12 months postoperatively. Postoperative VAS and AOFAS scores were comparable for the two groups, with no significant differences. An expected tendency to gain better length of the first metatarsal with open wedge osteotomy than with crescentic osteotomy was not found. Even though the reductions in IM and hallux valgus angles were only suboptimal, the improvement in AOFAS score was comparable to that seen in other similar clinical trials.