For people with severe arthritis in their toe joints, surgery has been one of the only options to relieve chronic pain. Fusion is a last resort. But now, surgeons have a new option to relieve pain and keep patients on their feet.
Logan Snyder was a standout high school athlete, racking up awards and landing a college softball scholarship. But pain in her toes became unbearable.
“Anytime that i would put weight on my toes, when they would bend back is when it would hurt, which is pretty much constantly,” Snyder said.
Doctors performed multiple surgeries to relieve pressure from what’s called hallux rigidis, a rigid big toe.
“We see it a lot in people who are on the front of their toes, whether it’s dance, whether it’s gymnastics, whether it’s running,” said orthopedic surgeon Dr. Victor Prisk.
Dr. Prisk knew that fusing the joint would eliminate the pain, but would also limit motion. Instead he recommended a newly-approved flexible toe joint implant called Cartiva.
“It’s made up of a material called polyvinyl alcohol,” Prisk said. “It’s very similar to the material that would be used to make contact lenses.”
Doctors open up the top of the toe exposing the head of the joint, then they insert the implant.
“It almost acts like a bumper in your joint,” Prisk said. “Just like your cartilage would.”
Snyder felt the difference as soon as she started moving her big toe.
“The change is that I can feel how far back it can get,” Snyder said. “It’s crazy compared to other surgeries.”
Last year pain forced Snyder to quit softball. Now she’s working to get back in shape without pain.
“That’s what I’m aiming for, and I really hope to get there,” Snyder said.
The FDA approved Cartiva last July.
Dr. Prisk says it’s recommended for patients who do not have gout and don’t have severe toe deformities.