Background: Hallux valgus is classified as an abnormal deviation of the great toe (hallux) towards the midline of the foot.
Objectives: To identify and evaluate the evidence from randomised trials of interventions used to correct hallux valgus.
Search strategy: We searched the Cochrane Musculoskeletal Injuries Group trials register (2003/1), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (The Cochrane Library issue 1, 2003), MEDLINE (January 1966 to March 2003) and EMBASE (1980 to January 2003). No language restrictions were applied. Hand searching of specific foot journals was also undertaken. Date of the most recent search: 31st March 2003.
Selection criteria: Randomised or quasi-randomised trials of both conservative and surgical treatments of hallux valgus. Excluded were studies comparing areas of surgery not specific to the control of the deformity such as use of anaesthetics or tourniquet placement.
Data collection and analysis: Methodological quality of trials which met the inclusion criteria was independently assessed by two reviewers. Data extraction was undertaken by two reviewers. The trials were grouped according to the interventions being compared, but the dissimilarity in the comparisons prevented pooling of results.
Main results: The methodological quality of the 21 included trials was generally poor and trial sizes were small. Three trials involving 332 participants evaluated conservative treatments versus no treatment. There was no evidence of a difference in outcomes between treatment and no treatment. One good quality trial involving 140 participants compared surgery to conservative treatment. Evidence was shown of an improvement in all outcomes in patients receiving chevron osteotomy compared with those receiving orthoses. The same trial also compared surgery to no treatment in 140 participants. Evidence was shown of an improvement in all outcomes in patients receiving chevron osteotomy compared with those receiving no treatment. Two trials involving 133 people with hallux valgus compared Keller's arthroplasty with other surgical techniques. In general, there was no advantage or disadvantage using Keller's over the other techniques. When the distal osteotomy was compared to Keller's arthroplasty, the osteotomy showed evidence of improving the intermetatarsal angle and preserving joint range of motion. The arthroplasty was found to have less of an impact on walking ability compared to the arthrodesis. Six trials involving 309 participants compared chevron (and chevron-type) osteotomy with other techniques. The chevron osteotomy offered no advantages in these trials. For some outcomes, other techniques gave better results. Two of these trials (94 participants) compared a type of proximal osteotomy to a proximal chevron osteotomy and found no evidence of a difference in outcomes between techniques. Three trials involving 157 participants compared outcomes between original operations and surgeon's adaptations. There was no advantage found for any of the adaptations. Three trials involving 71 people with hallux valgus compared new methods of fixation to traditional methods. There was no evidence that the new methods of fixation were detrimental to the outcome of the patients. Four trials involving 162 participants evaluated methods of post-operative rehabilitation. The use of continuous passive motion appeared to give an improved range of motion and earlier recovery following surgery. Early weightbearing or the use of a crepe bandage were not found to be detrimental to final outcome.
Reviewer's conclusions: Only a few studies had considered conservative treatments. The evidence from these suggested that orthoses and night splints did not appear to be any more beneficial in improving outcomes than no treatment. Surgery (chevron osteotomy) was shown to be beneficial compared to orthoses or no treatment, but when compared to other osteotomies, no technique was shown to be superior to any other. Only one trial had compared an osteotomy to an arthroplasty. There was limited evidence to suggest that the osteotomy gat the osteotomy gave the better outcomes. It was notable that the numbers of participants in some trials remaining dissatisfied at follow-up were consistently high (25 to 33%), even when the hallux valgus angle and pain had improved. A few of the more recent trials used assessment scores that combine several aspects of the patients outcomes. These scoring systems are useful to the clinician when comparing techniques but are of dubious relevance to the patient if they do not address their main concern and such scoring systems are frequently unvalidated. Only one study simply asked the patient if they were better than before the treatment. Final outcomes were most frequently measured at one year, with a few trials maintaining follow-up for 3 years. Such time-scales are minimal given that the patients will be on their feet for at least another 20-30 years after treatment. Future research should include patient-focused outcomes, standardised assessment criteria and longer surveillance periods, more usefully in the region of 5-10 years.