Broken Toe (cont.)

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What are the possible complications of a broken toe?

Other problems may develop as a result of the broken toe. Complications can occur immediately after the injury (minutes to days), or can develop much later (weeks to years). Inadequate treatment of a broken toe may lead to complications including foot deformities and chronic pain. Even when a broken toe is treated promptly, complications may arise including:

  • Nail injury: A collection of blood may develop underneath the toenail called a subungual hematoma. If it is large, it may need to be drained. To drain a subungual hematoma a doctor will make a small hole in the toenail to drain the blood. If the hematoma is very large or painful, the entire toenail may need to be removed. The injury may also result in a broken toenail that may need to be trimmed or removed.
  • Compound fracture: Rarely, the broken bone in a toe fracture may stick out through the skin. This is called an open or compound fracture. Emergency medical treatment and surgery may be necessary.
  • Arthritis: After the toe fracture heals, the person may still be left with arthritis, pain, stiffness, or even deformity.
  • Nonunion/malunion: Sometimes, the fractured bone will not heal completely (called a nonunion) or will heal improperly (called a malunion). Rarely, surgery may be necessary to fix this problem.
Picture of subungual hematoma
Picture of subungual hematoma

What is the prognosis for a broken toe?

  • Talk to the doctor to have the broken toe evaluated to be certain it is healing properly. Call a doctor or go to an emergency department if any problems or complications develop before the scheduled appointment.
  • The healing time for broken toes usually is take about six weeks to heal. If problems last longer than six weeks, another X-ray may be needed, or the injury should be rechecked by the doctor to evaluate how the bone is healing.
  • Simple toe fractures usually heal well with no problems. However, a severe fracture or a fracture that goes into a joint is at risk for developing arthritis, pain, stiffness, and possibly even a deformity.

REFERENCE: Silbergleit, R. MD. Foot Fracture. Medscape. Aug 07, 2014


Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/31/2015

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