Cheilectomy

A treatment performed as either open or minimally invasive surgery, this procedure is used to treat milder cases of osteoarthritis in the big toe.

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Your HCA UK consultant may recommend it if non-surgical treatments have been unsuccessful, and you can count on us to deliver expert care because we're:

  • Able to confirm your appointment to see a specialist about your cheilectomy within one working day
  • Ranked number one in London for private orthopaedic care
  • Rated as excellent or good by 97% of our orthopaedic patients

What is a cheilectomy?

A cheilectomy is surgery to remove a bony lump at the top of the main joint of the big toe to allow more movement. This lump is usually caused by arthritis. The Latin name for this type of arthritis is hallux rigidus (stiff big toe). That's why you may see a cheilectomy referred to as hallux rigidus surgery. There are two main types:

  • An open cheilectomy, where one incision is made over the bony lump. The joint is then cleaned out before the lump or bone spur is removed. That allows the severity of the arthritis to be assessed and then the wound from the incision is stitched up.
  • A minimally invasive cheilectomy, where smaller incisions are made. A burr – a type of drill - is used to clean the joint and remove the bone spurs before the incisions are closed with stitches. 

The recovery from minimally invasive cheilectomy surgery is possibly quicker, but rest assured that our orthopaedic specialists will always recommend the procedure that's going to be most effective for you. 

When would I need a cheilectomy operation?

If you develop hallux rigidus, the bone spurs that form the lump at the top of your toe joint can be painful. You may find that wearing shoes is uncomfortable or that you are struggling to move or walk without experiencing pain. Typically, you would undergo toe arthritis surgery once other treatments have been tried and have not helped. These could include:

  • Painkilling injections or anti-inflammatory medication to reduce pain, swelling and irritation
  • Modified footwear, such as shoes with a wide toe box or those with extra insoles to provide additional support
  • A change in lifestyle to reduce the strain on your feet. For example, limiting vigorous activity such as running.
The London Hip Unit, July 2021

Speak to an expert about a private cheilectomy

Our orthopaedic specialists will diagnose your condition and offer the treatment that will provide the quickest and most effective route to recovery. When you get in touch with us, we'll be able to confirm your appointment within one working day.

Cheilectomy FAQs

A cheilectomy will remove the bone spur that has formed at your big toe joint. The removal should help to:

  • Reduce the pain and swelling in the joint
  • Improve the flexibility of your toe
  • Allow you to wear footwear that previously would have been uncomfortable
  • Enable you to return to certain activities, such as long walks, running or other forms of exercise

A cheilectomy is a relatively straightforward operation that is a common treatment for arthritis in the big toe joint. However, your consultant will only recommend surgery if they feel it is the most suitable course of action for your specific condition.

As with any operation, there are some potential risks to be aware of. These include:

  • Continuing to experience pain or swelling in your big toe
  • Infection to the skin around the incision
  • Nerves or tingling at the top of the toe, which usually passes within a few weeks
  • Bleeding or blood clots

Our orthopaedic experts will talk you through all of these during your consultation, so you'll be able to make a fully informed decision about what you want to do.

After your surgery, there's a chance that you may continue to feel pain in your toe or around the joint. If that's the case, you may need another operation. This could be to:

  • Re-treat the arthritis via another cheilectomy
  • Undergo an arthroplasty, where some or all of the joint is replaced using prostheses
  • Fuse the bones via a procedure called arthrodesis, which fixes the joint in a permanent position and means you will be unable to bend it again. This is usually for cases of severe arthritis.

Your consultant will discuss all of your options with you, recommending the most effective treatment and making sure you receive the personalised care you need.

A cheilectomy operation can be done under general anaesthetic or a local anaesthetic. A general anaesthetic is usually administered as a gas that puts you to sleep, while a local anaesthetic requires an injection above the ankle and means you'll be awake for the procedure. Our specialists will talk you through everything you need to know about both options so that you can make a decision based on what is best for you.
Your consultant will tell you how best to prepare for your cheilectomy operation. If you're having general anaesthetic, they'll let you know how long you should avoid eating and drinking beforehand. We'll also be able to offer advice on which medications or exercise to avoid in the build-up to your surgery. If you're having local anaesthetic, it's usually best to avoid eating or drinking anything other than small amounts of clear liquids for at least an hour in advance. You should also steer clear of tea, coffee and alcohol on the day of your operation.
A cheilectomy is mostly carried out as a day case but in some exceptions you may need to be cared for in the hospital overnight. This will depend on your level of fitness. You will not be able to drive yourself home. Rest assured, though, that you'll be made to feel comfortable in one of our exceptional facilities if you do need to stay in for the night.
A cheilectomy is sometimes confused with bunion surgery, but they are not the same thing. While bunions are also bony lumps, the key difference is that they form on the outside of your toe rather than the top. Bunions can be treated by an osteotomy, a surgical procedure that involves cutting away the bunion, straightening your toe bone and fixing it in place with screws or staples.

You should be able to walk again from day one but, for the first two weeks, you should reduce walking if possible and when standing try to put your weight on the heel. Your consultant will explain what you need to do as well as let you know when you can get back to your usual routine, including exercise and work.

You'll be given pain relief to help tackle any discomfort you have in the first couple of days after your cheilectomy. Your stitches will be removed after approximately two weeks and your consultant or a member of the physiotherapy team will advise you on exercises you can do to help speed up your recovery.

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How much does a private cheilectomy cost?

The cost of a private cheilectomy can vary based on whether you need to stay overnight following your operation. During your initial appointment, your consultant will be able to talk you through all the costs involved so you'll have full transparency. There are also a number of different ways you can pay for your treatment:

  • Self-pay
  • Via private medical insurance
  • Through corporate or government sponsors
Why choose HCA UK

Why choose HCA UK?

Fast access to care: When you get in touch with us, we'll confirm your appointment with a specialist within one working day.

Leaders in the field: We're ranked number one in London for private orthopaedic care, based on data from the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN).

Advanced techniques: Your cheilectomy will be carried out using the very latest in industry-leading equipment.

Personalised care: Your treatment will be bespoke to you and your condition, and our expert specialists will recommend the most effective course of action.

Trusted by patients: 96% of our orthopaedic patients would recommend us to their friends and family.

How to book an appointment

Book an appointment with a foot and ankle consultant

If you're experiencing pain and swelling around your big toe joint and believe you may need a cheilectomy, we're here to offer the expert, personalised care you need. We're happy to help you make an appointment with one of our experienced foot and ankle consultants; we can also make imaging and outpatient physiotherapy appointments for you.

Cheilectomy Consultants

Mr Andrew Goldberg OBE

Mr Andrew Goldberg OBE

Orthopaedic Surgery

Mr Shelain Patel

Mr Shelain Patel

Orthopaedic Surgery

Mr Nicholas Cullen

Mr Nicholas Cullen

Orthopaedic Surgery

Mr Matthew J Welck

Mr Matthew J Welck

Orthopaedic Surgery

Our Cheilectomy locations

Institute of Sport Exercise and Health (ISEH)

170 Tottenham Court Road W1T 7HA London
The Princess Grace Hospital

The Princess Grace Hospital

42-52 Nottingham Place W1U 5NY London
The Lister Hospital

The Lister Hospital

Chelsea Bridge Road, SW1W 8RH London
The Shard Outpatients

The Shard Outpatients

The Shard, 32 St Thomas Street SE1 9BS London
London Bridge Hospital

London Bridge Hospital

27 Tooley Street SE1 2PR London
The Wellington Hospital

The Wellington Hospital

8A Wellington Place NW8 9LE London

This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.