Smart Toe Implant Lets Foot Surgery Patients Go Wireless
It's no wonder that millions of Americans suffer from some form of foot pain. The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) estimates that by age 50, the majority of people have logged 75,000 miles on their feet. For many, the pain is severe enough to warrant a trip to the podiatrist or foot doctor.
Among the most common foot problems are 'hammertoes:' a bending of the second, third or fourth toe at the middle joint, causing it to appear like an upside-down 'V' when viewed from the side. Hammertoes are caused by a muscular imbalance that does not allow them to work in pairs to straighten the toe - usually the result of ill-fitting shoes that force the toes together and push the smaller toes into a bent position. Over time, the toe muscles shorten and lead to the often painful deformity.
Until now, the primary surgical correction for hammertoes has looked more painful than the problem itself. Traditional surgery to fuse and stabilize the toe bones into their correct position depends on a "K-wire" inserted through the tip of the toe, and down the center of the bones. Once inserted, the wire protrudes from the tip of the toe for four to six weeks during healing. The protruding wire is clumsy as well as painful, plus, the open wound can increase infection risk.
To solve these problems, a new option called the Smart Toe Memory Implant is now available to surgeons and their patients. Available from MMI-USA, Inc., a manufacturer of innovative orthopedic products for hand and foot surgeons, the implant was created specifically to better treat toe pain and deformities such as hammertoes, and other forms of deviated or crooked toes (such as mallet toes, claw toes, Morton's toe), as well as toe deformities caused by severe arthritis, diabetes, stroke or even heredity. Treatment with the new implant produces the desired bone fusion, without having any wire exposed externally.
The new toe implant gets its 'memory' from a revolutionary alloy called NiTinol, which has unique compressive - or shape memory - properties that are activated by body heat. Inserted after being cooled by the surgical team, the implant expands in width, securing it in place, then gradually shortens in length, creating compression across the joint line. The expansion and shortening processes encourage joint fusion and healing. The implant is also available in a different design that is super-elastic, with a spring-like action that does not require heat or cold to function.
In addition to the material's unique properties, the one-piece design of both types of Smart Toe implant bring advantages. Other implants commonly used to correct hammertoes are two pieces that must be connected during surgery, risking disconnection and rotation afterward. Rotation is also a frequent problem with K-wire stabilization that can result in improper fusion. Because the Smart Toe implant is completely internal, it resists any movement or rotation and can be positioned where needed without disrupting otherwise healthy bone.