Seniors: Repair Crossover Toe to Stay Active

Crossover toe is a common foot problem that can inhibit physical activity for older Americans, but outpatient surgery can correct the deformity and keep senior citizens active and on their feet.

Individuals with hammertoes, bunions, or a second toe that extends beyond the big toe are most susceptible to developing crossover toe as they age, according to Dr. James Bartley, a member of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. "It's a common problem among older people in which the second toe gradually moves across the big toe. It can be painful and, therefore, difficult to walk comfortably or pursue an active lifestyle."

Bartley explained that the first symptom of crossover toe is pain in the ball of the foot caused by a tear in the underlying joint capsule (plantar plate), fostering instability that allows the second toe to fall out of alignment and eventually drift. Doctors normally check the ball of the foot for a possible plantar-plate tear when an older patient complains of pain in the area. He said pre-existing forefoot problems combined with normal wear and tear or possible trauma may cause the plate to tear over time.

"Pain in the ball of the foot is the first warning sign indicating the second toe might crossover and eventually limit the activity of an older patient," said Bartley. "If the pain persists and the toe starts to drift, surgery is recommended to suture the plantar plate or replace it through a tendon-transfer." Surgery to correct crossover toe is an outpatient procedure performed with a local anesthesia. Patients with bunions or hammertoes are advised to have those deformities corrected during the surgery. Recovery time is about six weeks.