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Short Metatarsal Syndrome

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Shortened Toe (Brachymetatarsia)

Brachymetatarsia is a condition, often inherited, whereby one or more of the toes is unusually short.

A stunted metatarsal, or foot bone, results in a toe that is smaller than the others. This condition is most often seen in the fourth toe and can affect both feet.

When more than one metatarsal and toe are shorter than usual, the condition is known as brachymetapodia. Brachymetatarsia (shortened toe) can be diagnosed and treated in our clinics in DeSoto, Dallas and Sunnyville (Texas).

What Causes Brachymetatarsia?

Brachymetatarsia occurs when growth in the bones of the toes (metatarsal bones, or metatarsi) stops or slows at an early stage. When the growth plate closes, the growing stage is finished. Trauma, such as an accident, may also cause brachymetatarsia.

What Are the Physical Effects of Shortened Toe

A shortened toe (brachymetatarsia) can lead to problems in walking or gait. With metatarsi of normal length, the body’s weight is distributed evenly across the five metatarsal bones.

Brachymetatarsia interferes with this system of weight distribution because the stunted bone (usually the fourth metatarsal) cannot carry its share of the weight. As a result, the third and the fifth metatarsai are overloaded. This dysfunction in the weight-bearing load can result in pressure, pain, skin lesions, or fractures. Some patients have difficulty finding comfortable footwear.

How Do We Treat Short Toe Syndrome?

One way to relieve the discomfort is through the use of orthotics. Our medical staff in DeSoto, Sunnyvale or Dallas may prescribe shoes that accommodate the shortened toe, or padding to reduce pressure.

If conservative therapy does not relieve the patient’s embarrassment and discomfort, surgery is another option. Our medical staff can lengthen the metatarsal bone by grafting additional material to add bony length. With this procedure, we pay special attention during the post-op period to how well the graft is fusing with the metatarsal bone.

Another surgical option for brachymetatarsal syndrome is called callus distraction. Bone callus is connective tissue. With this technique, the bone callus is lengthened by exerting pressure on surrounding soft tissues as well as bone. Gradually, the bone can be induced to add length with this technique.

Callus distraction uses a fixation device with pins that are drilled into the short metatarsal bone. The external fixation device is then adjusted gradually over a period of time to allow the metatarsal bone to heal and regain strength. Callus distraction is also known as callostasis or callus osteogenesis.

For more information about treatment for brachymetatarsia or shortened toe syndrome, call our DeSoto, Dallas or Sunnyvale clinics for a medical consultation.