The stubbed great toe: importance of early recognition and treatment of open fractures of the distal phalanx

J Pediatr Orthop. 2001 Jan-Feb;21(1):31-4. doi: 10.1097/00004694-200101000-00008.


Stubbing injuries to the great toe can be a cause of occult open fractures and osteomyelitis. Five such patients were identified after conducting a retrospective review of injuries to the hallux between January 1998 and December 1998. The study was conducted to draw attention to the association between this trivial trauma and its possible complications. All five children had open fractures of the distal phalanx of the great toe. Osteomyelitis did not develop in the children whose injuries were recognized early and who were treated with antibiotics. However, three children with delayed diagnoses and treatment developed osteomyelitis. At a mean follow-up of 10 months (range, 9-11) after injury, all five fractures had healed with no active signs of infection. Two of these children experienced a partial growth arrest and two experienced a full growth arrest of the distal phalanx of the great toe, the significance of which is yet unknown. Clinical signs such as bleeding from the eponychium and a laceration proximal to the nail bed should alert physicians to the presence of a possible open fracture. Early detection and treatment of these injuries may reduce or eliminate hospital stays and prolonged intravenous antibiotic treatment for osteomyelitis.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Fractures, Bone / complications
  • Fractures, Bone / diagnostic imaging*
  • Fractures, Bone / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Osteomyelitis / etiology
  • Osteomyelitis / therapy
  • Radiography
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Toes / injuries*